Hurricane Ian: How the Fitness Industry Can Help

    Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in Southwest Florida on September 28, 2022. Here are some ways that the fitness community can help local cleanup and recovery efforts.

    If you’re in the business of fitness, you're in the business of improving well-being for your neighbor. In times of crisis, the sense of community brings hope and relief to those suffering the worst. Hurricane Ian brought a devastating storm surge, flattened towns, and destroyed homes and businesses. While the storm had an impact across the state of Florida, the hardest hit counties include:

    • Lee County,

    • Charlotte County, and

    • Collier County.

    Thoughts From the Locals

    In June, IHRSA hosted the annual Convention & Trade Show in Miami Beach, FL. Two of our event speakers—Justin Hanneken, executive director, Ends of the Earth Cycling, and Annie Meehan, award-winning author and speaker—have permanent residence in the direct route of Hurricane Ian, North Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach, respectively.

    At IHRSA 2022, Justin taught us about charitable events and how to share stories to drive connection. Annie shared about her signature “Pineapple Principle”—standing tall, being sweet on the inside, and wearing your crown! Both speakers and sessions resonate during this great time of need.

    Hurricane Ian Column Width Listing Image

    Source: Ricardo Arduengo | AFP | Getty Images

    Annie describes her experience from Fort Myers Beach as “Traumatic, dramatic, terrifying. Twelve hours locked in our store room in the dark. Doors shaking, water rushing in, glass breaking…”

    She adds, “Photos don’t do justice to the sounds, sights, smells, and devastating impact on Fort Myers Beach…we might be homeless, but we are not hopeless.”

    How the Fitness Community is Assisting

    An easy way to assist in the wake of disaster is to open your facility as a place for the public to shower and use electricity.

    The Crunch Fitness Cape Coral location restored power, WiFi, and the HVAC system, then they opened their doors to members under condensed hours while a portion of those hours allowed community members in need to take advantage of a hot shower, food, water, and a place to charge their devices.

    Hurricane Ian Crunch Column Width

    Source: CR Fitness Holdings, LLC

    Crunch Fitness locations in the Orlando area and Gainesville Health & Fitness Club also opened clubs to the public for anyone that needed a hot shower and lost power due to Hurricane Ian.

    "This is a tragic situation for many of our friends and neighbors in the Southwest region of Florida and our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Ian," said CR Fitness CEO Tony Scrimale. "It is times like these that we need to come together as a company to support our local communities and employees who need donations to help them recover and begin to rebuild in the coming months."

    Connect Locally: Organizations to Consider

    Justin’s organization, Ends of the Earth Cycling/New International, has a local team on the ground assisting with cleanup. They are hosting a specific fundraising portal on their website to assist financially.

    “New International community members got started at 7 a.m. Thursday, [September 29], cutting down trees, removing debris, and assessing the damage,” says Justin. “Three homes on their block at 2701 Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers sustained damage. Tarping roofs was a high priority. Other teams reached out to widows in the neighborhood, praying and counseling with them. Some [teams cleaned] out houses with drenched furniture and removed wet drywall up to two feet.”

    Hurricane Ian Column Width

    Source: Erin Ribble

    The local Lee County government website hosts a list of local initiatives where their funds are going. The list includes temporary roof repair to eligible homes, shuttle transit for displaced residents, food and water distribution, and more. Their fundraiser is hosted in partnership with United Way and the Collaboratory.

    The Lee County page further states, “Financial donations remain the best way to assist families impacted by Hurricane Ian now and for the long-term recovery.”

    Many Florida fitness professionals are sharing opportunities to donate on their social media channels. Check in with the locals in your network, and see how you can be a support line for your industry colleagues and their staff.

    Things to Contemplate Before Donating

    If you’re thinking of a donation—in cash, time, or goods—or fundraising, here are a few things to consider:

    1. Cash Donations Are Often Best: Donating physical items may not address the most immediate needs, and it can be challenging to deliver items to those that need them most.

    2. Consider Volunteering Time: If you’re local to areas affected by Hurricane Ian, consider collaborating with your staff and family to assist with clean up. VolunteerFlorida has set up a robust list of organizations calling for assistance, including locations, times and more information about each opportunity.

    3. Beware Scammers: Before you donate, research the company or charity! It’s not uncommon to come across scams when people are in need.

    4. Think About What You May Need to Help: IHRSA Group Purchasing partner Grainger offers a helpful hurricane and flood checklist with a list of resources to be used for both preparedness and responding/recovering from a hurricane.

    Author avatar

    Christine Ulatoski

    Christine Ulatoski is the Senior Manager, Meetings, Events, & Education for IHRSA. She develops educational content online and in person at IHRSA events, as well as manages all event speakers. Outside of IHRSA, Christine can be found teaching or taking group fitness classes, or in the kitchen baking her specialty: chocolate chip cookies!