This interview was brought to you by ICE NYC and Kettlebells 4 Autism who have teamed up for a partner fundraiser and workout on April 29th at ICE NYC 59th Street. All the proceeds will go to @nycautismcharter - the only public charter school in NY designed for children with autism. To sign up for the event, click HERE.
ICE NYC and Kettlebells 4 Autism have teamed up for a partner fundraiser and workout on April 29th at ICE NYC 59th Street. So we sat down with ICE NYC member, Cat Cervone, for an insider scoop. For tips and information about upcoming events, how to get involved in KettleBells For Autism, and how KB4A started, read on.
Gabrielle Kassel: Can you start by telling us a bit about your origin story? The organization began officially in February of 2013, but when was the idea conceived? What was your intention and goal?
Cat Cervone: Christina Danos created Kettlebells 4 Autism in 2013. She works with children with autism in Toronto as a behavior therapist, and competes in Kettlebell Sport. An acquaintance asked if she could help with a fundraising event for a local family and she had the idea of rallying the Kettlebell Sport community to take part. People really took to it. I heard about her fundraising events after reading about one she was doing to support Association for Science in Autism Treatment and we then collaborated on a fundraising event in 2014 and again in 2015. I’ve been connected to the cause since my nephew was diagnosed in 2009. He is my favorite person, and has showed me that understanding and compassion go a long way, so I became devoted to spreading awareness about what autism is and connecting to those who already know. I think Christina saw how much I cared and appreciated my passion for it. She eventually invited me to come on board as director of U.S. events. So Christina plans events in Canada and I plan events in the United States. The rest is history!
GK: Why did you want to combine spreading autism awareness with sport?
CC: There are charity events for autism awareness all of the time - benefit concerts, comedy shows, dances, car washes and more. I am happy to do all of those things, but giving back through sport is something special. It creates a lot of meaning to physically give everything I have in the name of a cause I am so passionate about. It’s also probably the only time I’m able to turn that little “you can’t” voice off, because the workout that day isn’t about me, it’s about the people I’m trying to help. It’s a great motivator and a time we can all see what we are made of.
GK: Why specifically did you want to combine spreading autism awareness with CrossFit and the CrossFit community?
CC: Since being introduced the CrossFit community in 2013, I have learned that the one thing this community does is help each other. I remember my first event in 2014 was at a gym in central NJ, but many members from multiple gyms in NYC donated to the event. Athletic companies like RX Jump Rope and others donated prizes as well. It was then that I realized the community aspect of crossfit is a real thing, and it continues to amaze me year after year. It is very much like the autism and special needs communities that are local to me. You see the same families at the same sports games and education events, and you connect without trying, because you understand just a little bit about each other's lives. It’s sort of like us crazy crossfitters understanding each other - why we love tortuous workouts, why we want to get better, and certainly why we keep coming back every day! Combining autism awareness with CrossFit feels like a very natural fit to me.
GK: What should people coming to the ICE NYC x KB4A event expect? Is there anything specifically they should bring with them?
CC: People coming to the event should expect to come ready to sweat! We will be ready to go at 12:30pm. We have towels, and water, snacks and protein shakes will be available. Two of ICE’s fitness instructors (Logan and Gigi) have programmed a really fun partner workout - Kettlebell Swings, Wall Balls, BURPEES (don’t worry - you get to split these with your partner!) along with some other fun movements. If you’ve ever taken their classes, you know to expect LOTS of energy and music that makes you want to move. We will be joined by The Chestee - they’ve created some super stylish sports bras with built-in collarbone guards designed to protect athletes against bruising from barbell impact. They will be raffling off some fun prizes. We’ve also collaborated with an apparel company (No Matter What Apparel) to design shirts for the event. Anyone who wasn’t able to purchase a shirt at presale should wear their favorite shade of blue or their favorite shirt supporting kettlebell sport and/or autism awareness! I know some people are wearing blue paint, so I am looking forward to that!
GK: Are there opportunities for athletes to get involved further?
CC: All of our events are collaborations. We aim to work with CrossFit gyms, Kettlebell Sport teams, coaches and athletes. We work together to program a WOD or workout - some sort of challenge that their community can get behind. We find an organization that supports people with autism located in their community. Any money raised goes directly to that autism organization - they create a fundraising platform page (crowdrise, fundly, etc.) and collect all donations. It's a means to introduce the autism organization to the gym’s community and vice versa. We welcome opportunities to work with fitness enthusiasts looking for a fun way to bring people together for a workout dedicated to those with autism.. "Work Hard. Give Back" is our motto, and anyone who has been to one of our events will tell you it holds true! Anyone interested, we'd love to hear from you. You can find our contact details at www.kettlebells4autism.com, our facebook page and our instagram account @kettlebells4autism.