The No. 1 cause of firefighter deaths is not fire, said Robert Piparo. It is cardiac-related diseases.
As the director of 555 Fitness, a nonprofit located in New Jersey, Piparo’s goal is to raise awareness with hopes to ultimately reduce firefighter deaths caused by cardiac-related diseases.
He explained many firefighters don’t workout as needed because their firehouses don’t have great equipment. “If a fire department has to choose between buying a hose and SCBA pack, or fitness equipment, they go for the hose and SCBA pack because that’s what our job is,” he explained.
Piparo started at 555 Fitness after complaining on the charity’s Facebook page one day. At the time, 555 Fitness provided workouts firefighters could do, but Piparo was unable to do many of them because his firehouse lacked the necessary equipment. So he was brought on the 555 Fitness team to create bodyweight workouts. Eventually, that morphed into 555 Fitness’ grant program. Several times a year, the organization looks to give $2,500 of functional fitness equipment to fire departments around the country.
Interestingly enough, most of those involved in 555 Fitness have their CrossFit Level 1 certificate and are tied to the CrossFit community in some way. In fact, Piparo has found increasing interest from CrossFit Boxes about making 555 Fitness the charity of their event or competition.
For example, the members of CrossFit Aspire recently participated in a fundraiser for 555 Fitness. During April, members did as many double-unders as possible. For each double-under a member did during the month — with the cap at 3,000 double-unders — the member’s sponsor would donate one penny. Not only did this help raise money for 555 Fitness, but Alycia Alves, the owner of the Box in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said it was great to get members to work on a skill they needed to practice.
Initially, a member suggested partnering with 555 Fitness to Alves. And she found members resonated well with 555 Fitness’ mission. “It was nice when I explained [555 Fitness] to our members and said, ‘Look, this organization gives CrossFit equipment to firefighters who need to stay in shape,’ it had more of a connection to what [our members] were doing,” said Alves.
At the end of the month, the Box held an event where participants did two of 555 Fitness’ Honor WODs — the nonprofit created 343 Honor WODs for each Fire Department of New York firefighter who lost his or her life in 9/11. All of the proceeds from the double-under challenge and event went to 555 Fitness.
CrossFit Aspire tries to hold events and challenges that help charities several times a year because of the benefit it has for the surrounding community. This event with 555 Fitness was no different. “It’s easy to just want to make money as a gym, but it’s more fulfilling to have everyone chip in just a little, tiny bit, and help another organization that needs it more,” said Alves.
Overall, Piparo said Box owners can get involved with the mission of 555 Fitness through simply raising awareness. “An every day Box owner can engage their membership, their local emergency service providers, by hosting one of our honor WODs and by really raising awareness about what it is we’re doing, because that’s the way we’re growing,” he said. “It’s just an awesome way to give back and have a great fitness tie-in.”