“Empty the tank.”
As a coach, it’s a line I yell out often at the end of our workouts at CrossFit Unlimited.
When an athlete has already given it their all, and is struggling to finish the workout, I tell them to “empty the tank” so he or she finishes with nothing left to give.
“Show me what you’re made of, right here, right now.”
“Whatever you have left, I want all of it.”
When a CrossFitter empties his or her tank, there are no “maybe I could’ve done it five seconds faster” or “maybe I could have completed a few more reps” when it’s all said and done.
“Empty the tank” means leave it all on the floor.
No second chances.
For Christmas last year, that’s exactly what our CrossFit Unlimited members did at all three locations.
As a result, our tanks were empty, and our hearts were full.
We adopted three families for Christmas in hopes of giving 11 kids presents underneath their otherwise empty trees. In one week, we gave everything we had – and then more – and together, we successfully marked every item off of these kids’ wish lists.
But just a few days before Christmas, we felt like we still had more to give.
Our list of three families and 11 kids ultimately grew into a list of 15 families, 33 kids and $17,500 split amongst them for not just toys, but also gift certificates, food for their pantries, bills, etc.
What started out as a CrossFit Unlimited project grew into a COMMUNITY EFFORT, as members recruited their friends, family members, local businesses and respective towns to empty their own tanks with us.
Today, as we celebrate a day that symbolizes the very definition of “give it your all,” I would like to share the highlights of what we actually gave Jesus for his birthday:
When we asked our Crowley family what they wanted for Christmas, the children told us that their dog had been hit by a car and needed surgery to save its leg – a surgery the family could not afford. The kids had told their parents that all they wanted for Christmas is for their dog to not have to be euthanized. Animal Relief Foundation stepped up to the plate and paid for the entire $1,500 surgery. Then, once their pup was taken care of, the children were asked to make new lists for Christmas.
To raise money, I made a GoFundMe page for Chloe Smith, our 14-year-old Crowley CrossFitter, while she was at school. I told everyone she would do a burpee for every dollar donated to our Adopt a Family. Chloe didn’t find out about the page until she got home from school – and learned she had 450 burpees to do. She then donated $50 of her own money to the cause, and plans do all 500 burpees with her proud momma, Tammy.
Two of our CrossFit teens, Raynee and Kadence, decided to donate their Barbie collections to three little girls in our Jennings family. These were the same little girls who said if they could have anything they wanted for Christmas, it would be underwear and pajamas. Of course we got them plenty of clothes, but Raynee and Kadence donated two giant doll houses and more than 60 Barbies to the cause. It was their generosity that inspired us to adopt more children for Christmas, giving 12 little girls Barbies and dream houses for Christmas.
The Barbies weren’t the only collection given away this week. Kana messaged me that her kids no longer played with their Wii console, so she donated the Wii and a dozen games with it. When I asked one of our families if their kids had a Wii, their reply was, “No ma’am, they don’t have a TV.” So they received both for Christmas.
When we started asking for food donations, Crowley’s 5 am class filled the counter there with rice, canned goods, grocery gift cards and more. Then Gretchen Miller stole her husband’s ice chest (I’ll bring it back, I swear) and filled it with deer meat to donate to each family. Then, our “coupon ladies” made care packages out of laundry baskets, billing them with laundry detergent, towels, soap, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and so much more.
After taking on more families, I made a desperate plea on Facebook for more bicycles. My fondest childhood memories involved riding a bike with my BFF, Carrie. I lost Carrie when we were 16, and stopped riding my bike after that. I didn’t have the heart to ride it without her. All week long, I watched her sister, Lil Jess, help us wrap presents and roll in a grand total of 33 bikes – 33 was Carrie’s basketball number and it’s tattooed on my ankle. It’s also tattooed on her little sister’s ankle. Words cannot describe how it felt working with Lil Jess to make this happen. To me, it felt like I was getting to play with her big sis again. I think I’m going to go buy myself a new bike after Christmas…
Jamie Lynn from Eunice sent me this message: “Just leaving Walmart in Eunice. Added to the Legos 8 packs of cards, two basketballs , two footballs, three gift sets, one for each girl, and a new Huffy bike for the boy who had his stolen. When paying at the register, a man behind me asked how many kids I got. I told him the story and he offered to pay half of my total, so I got that, plus stuff mentioned in previous comment. They will have a Christmas.” So yeah, Jamie gave everything she could, and then a complete stranger was so inspired by that he helped her give even more.
My sister, Jessica, spent three whole days shopping for these kids. She single-handedly bought every item on their wish lists. But on her final day of shopping after I had just added eight more names, she was unloading her basket at Walmart when the money bag went missing. She called me squalling. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying and thought she accidentally ran over one of my dogs or something. Come to find out, a man had stolen the foster kids’ money bag with $600 in it. Jess was heartbroken – every gift she purchased was on a receipt in that bag. Each kid had his or her own envelope and Christmas list in that bag. Our entire week-long project was in that bag. Through her tears, she offered to use her own money to replace the stolen money – all $600 of it. I told her not to worry about it, that we still had presents to wrap, and the man who had taken the money probably needed it more than we did to steal it from her in broad daylight. In that moment, I realized just how much I love my sister. I couldn’t have done any of this without her, nor would it have been near as much fun. Every time I added a name to the list, she gave everything she had to make sure that kid would have the best Christmas ever. And as a happy ending to this particular story, a stranger returned the bag to Walmart with all of the money still in it. Jess spent the rest of it before she even had time to wipe away her tears.
We adopted a 17-year-old kid who never had a family of his own. He wanted a pair of converse and had been saving up for quite some time to buy a pair. This particular kid walks to work because he doesn’t have transportation, and he’s trying to put himself through school. We not only bought him a bike to help him get to work faster, but we also gave him a laptop to help him through school. When the wrapped presents were delivered to him, he was able to open one gift early – it was a pair of converse. In tears, the kid who never had a family looked up from his box of new shoes and asked, “Why would someone do this for me? They don’t even know me.” He then reached into his wallet and tried to give the woman $20 that he saved up for his shoes. Of course, she refused to take it. I can only smile and think about the look on that kid’s face this morning when he opened a laptop computer, brand new bike and about $300 worth of brand name clothes, including three additional pairs of shoes, for Christmas.
Cathy Jo from Eunice saw that one of the little girl’s wanted a new pair of converse for Christmas, as well. This is what she sent me: “Now you’re just going to make me cry. My dad lost his job when I was 9. By the time I was 11, I was cleaning houses to help buy supper and Dad took every odd job he could find, but that didn’t amount to a whole lot of extras. So Christmas time rolled around and I had no gifts under the tree. My best friend went home and wrapped all her stuffed animals and put them under my tree so I’d have something to open. I have Kat’s pink converse on the way.”
I also received this message from Megan, one of our Crowley members: “Becca, I usually donate to the AFSP each Christmas in memory of my son, but I think he would have liked to make a child happy on Christmas with a bike. Let me know if that works and where I need to take it.”
To my BFF, Pinky. I couldn’t empty my tank without you; you’re the one who gives me gas. Thank you for making this story possible. Thank you for making so many stories just like these possible. You inspire all of us to be better people, every damn day.
To my fellow CrossFitters, you guys complete me. Thank you for always leaving it all on the floor; for giving it everything you have, and then some; and thank for making a real difference in the lives of other people. Every rep counts. We still have more to give – we’re just getting warmed up. CrossFit Unlimited, right? Full hearts, empty tanks.