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Area fitness centers collect toys for CASA for Kids

Christmas is the season of giving. This year, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) hosted its first annual CrossFit for Christmas Competition.

CASA is a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to “assure that abused and neglected children are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.”

The competition was a fundraiser for a select number of children affiliated with CASA. The goal was for each gym to collect as many donated gifts as possible for its child.

Each gym was given one child, with a list of the kid’s interests, clothing sizes and name.

The winner of this year’s competition was Mountaineer CrossFit. Owner Thomas Hooton said the only goal and hope was to be able to brighten a child’s Christmas. Hooton said the support from his members played a major role.

“It speaks volumes about our membership … it’s been a huge outpouring of their support,” Hooton said. “This is their win, not mine.”

Hooton was presented with a plaque for the winning gym.

According to Kayla Benson, executive director of CASA for Monongalia and Preston counties, the competition was announced only with a month to spare. Benson said Garrett Tomblin, a community member, approached CASA with the idea and they reached out to a number of gyms — with a two-week period — to raise as many donations as possible for their child.

Tomblin and Benson started small, focusing on reaching out to CrossFit gyms in the area to get them involved.

Benson said they are planning to grow the competition for next year and get more people involved.

Tomblin donated the Santa sacks, with each child’s name monogrammed on the side. Tomblin said this is something every kid deserves, especially when a lot of the children do not have much.

“You help because you can, not because you need or want something,” Tomblin said.

The next goal for Tomblin is focusing on a crawfish bowl event that was held last summer at Marilla Park, he said.

CASA has volunteers throughout the community who spend “countless” hours advocating for the children, according to Benson, and to have a competition for the holidays revealed how supportive the community can be.

With the opioid epidemic in the state, Benson said she has seen an increase in the system but there are a lot of people working to make sure the children are safe, healthy and happy.

“Kids are just incredible … if I’ve learned one thing from being in this role, that’s it,” Benson said. “It’s humbling to see our CASA volunteers spend the time that they do to give to these kids. It’s so incredible to see all of the people that want to help kids in the community. That’s the best part of working in this position.”