CrossFit Strong

It’s no secret that CrossFit boxes foster a deep sense of community amongst the members, coaches and owners that enter into each and every unique location worldwide. That sense of community is evident at PSKC CrossFit, a box in Portsmouth, Ohio, that recently banded together to support a member going through a gut-wrenching ordeal.

Ashley Schwamberger, 28, joined PSKC in 2010. Up until 2012, PSKC was a place where Schwamberger went to enjoy and reap the physical and mental benefits that CrossFit provided her.

PSKC became more than that after her son, Boston, became diagnosed with a rare tumor in October 2012. After that, PSKC became a source of comfort. Members and the owner, Dale King, banded behind Ashley, her husband Joe — and of course, Boston — to offer their support and help where and when possible.

“His diagnosis immediately brought together our local CrossFit community, and they rallied behind us,” recalled Schwamberger.

In addition to providing emotional support for Schwamberger’s family, PSKC raised money to help pay for medical bills and create awareness for Boston’s rare condition, called DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma). PSKC even named a WOD after Boston, a four-round workout consisting of seven deadlifts (225/155), 22 KB Snatch (53/35) and nine slurpees (20/10). According to King, the four rounds represent each year of Boston’s life.

For King, who’d been close with Schwamberger ever since she joined, there wasn’t even a question as to whether or not he’d support Schwamberger and her family. “We knew it would be a long road,” said King. “We also knew the family was ready for the fight, and we wanted them to know we’d be there for them.”

Schwamberger, Joe and Boston did fight. For months, Boston received cycles of radiation, countless doctor visits and MRIs, and of course, countless wishes for the best. Throughout, Schwamberger used CrossFit as an escape, both at PSKC and on the road, when the family traveled for Boston’s doctor visits.

In July 2013, Boston’s physical health went downhill, making it increasingly difficult for Schwamberger to make it to PSKC. So King took CrossFit to her, bringing equipment and his coaching directly to Schwamberger at home. “It really helped relieve some stress for that hour,” recalled Schwamberger.

Boston passed on September 4, 2013. On February 27, 2014, Schwamberger will compete in her third CrossFit Games Open, in honor of her son.

Schwamberger hopes that her family’s story and how PSKC helped and supported her will serve as an example that you don’t have to give up when faced with tragedy. “If one person is inspired to keep going as a result of my story, then that’s good,” she said. “I just want to thank the entire community for their support.”

Although Schwamberger gained strength from the support of King and the PSKC community, they gained something from her as well.

“The greatest gift CrossFit gives to us is the mental capacity to overcome obstacles,” said King. “This is the medicine that helps Ashley cope. This therapy, combined with the support of her gym family, keeps her going. We are lucky to have her and gain strength from her.”

Rachel Zabonick
Rachel Zabonick is the editor-in-chief of Peake Media. Contact her at rachel@peakemedia.com.