CrossFit Santa Barbara’s Saturday workout looked a little different on April 30th, 2022. In place of the typical Workout of the Day, gym members and others participated in Ukraine Strength, a workout event to raise funds for Ukraine. Proceeds were split between Direct Relief’s Ukraine Relief program and a crypto-currency donation directly to the Ukrainian government.

The event was geared toward athletes and participants of all skill levels, with workouts ranging from basic beginner to CrossFit Hero.

“As Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, the international CrossFit community was gearing up for its biggest annual competition, with nearly every CrossFit gym in the world taking part,” said Erin Foster, Doctor of Physical Therapy and co-owner of CrossFit Santa Barbara. “But while we in Santa Barbara were preparing to test our fitness in the gym, Ukrainian CrossFitters were literally using their gyms as bomb shelters. Several of our members began talking about how we could band together to do something to show our support.”

The result was Ukraine Strength.

According to Foster, the event is representative of the culture and camaraderie at the heart of the gym. “We’re a really inclusive, accepting and supportive community of people who just want to better themselves through fitness and friendships,” she said. “At a lot of gyms, you show up, do your workout without talking much to other people and then head home. Here, people show up early, cheer each other on and often stay after class to socialize.

“Everyone knows each other, and everyone celebrates one another’s milestones, whether it be achieving a first pull up, hitting a personal record, or just completing a workout under the time cap for the first time,” Foster continued. “Even though our members range from brand new beginners with no previous experience to competitive CrossFit athletes, everyone works out together, with each workout tailored to the needs and skill level of each person. This creates an atmosphere of motivation and helps build a bond between members.”

And it’s this bond, she added, that enable ideas such as a group fundraiser to come to fruition.

Fundraiser organizers selected Direct Relief as a partner because the organization is locally based and has a long history of aiding those in need around the world.

Since Ukraine was invaded in February, Direct Relief has distributed over $12.5 million in emergency project grants and deployed more than 250 tons of medical aid — including a wide range of medicine, equipment, and supplies, from Emergency Medical Packs used by first responders in the field to critical care medicines administered in ICU settings — to on-the-ground partners throughout country and in neighboring states. Direct Relief is working directly with Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and hundreds of partners throughout the region and globally to meet immediate requests while simultaneously coordinating long-term assistance programs for people affected or displaced by the conflict.

CrossFit Santa Barbara and their community raised just under $2500 through the fundraiser.