The following speech I shared Saturday at the Ericlee Memorial Rowathon at CrossFit Combat Fitness in Fresno where Ericlee coached:
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for coming out today to compete and support our family and organization. Thank you to all our sponsors and vendors, and especially to Erik Traeger and CrossFit Combat Fitness for hosting this event and so many others. As you can imagine this has been a difficult several months for us as Ericlee was battling cancer, but today my spirits are truly lifted as I stand at this event and see so many people joining together to make one of my husband’s dreams come alive.
Ericlee was an athlete his whole life. He played basketball, football and ran track and field. His specialty was the long jump and he even competed in track & field in college and tried out for the Olympics. He eventually went on to coach those sports. He was infamous with his athletes for two things: his oversized straw hat and creating tough conditioning workouts. This, of course, was pre-CrossFit days.
When Ericlee found CrossFit several years ago, I believe he found his sweet spot. He personally loved the challenge of the workouts and the idea that this sport was about all-around fitness. One of my most recent memories of Ericlee in this gym was this past April when he decided to raise money doing a 40th birthday WOD. He put the word out to friends, family and clients that he would let them create a birthday WOD for him if they donated money toward Haiti. I believe it was his Boot Camp crew who created a brutal workout for him. True to form, he went for it. My three girls and I all came out to cheer him on as he went up against that ridiculous workout, which clearly was designed to make him exercise his weaknesses. It was a Courageous moment but that’s what Ericlee was all about. He was not afraid to face the difficult, the unknown, to take a challenge head on, and with that huge signature smile of his! Little did we know, he was fighting an aggressive form of melanoma cancer at the time.
Ericlee was not content to just do CrossFit himself. He wanted to share CrossFit with everyone and anyone who would listen. He coached here at CrossFit Combat Fitness but he also brought CrossFit to his athletes at Fresno Christian High School, the women who were part of our Wednesday Go Mama Workouts, just about any friend who was interested in getting in shape, and even to the people of Haiti.
Ericlee was a man of conviction. He was passionate about sharing his faith and offering a hand up to the people of Haiti. Following the footsteps of his pioneer grandparents who served in Haiti, my husband courageously served as the director of Christian Friendship Ministries. Through the years, he was a catalyst for many projects and partnerships with leaders in Haiti. He also brought Haiti to the CrossFit community. Again, thank you to all of you who have joined us these past five years as part of the Remember Haiti Fitness series. I still remember many late-night conversations with Ericlee about all the details of what this could look like. He built it from the ground up and I am truly awed to see how many people in the community have a heart for Haiti as a result.
Today we are raising awareness and funds for two of Ericlee’s dream projects: the first is for the largest school that is part of our non-profit. If you traveled to Haiti with me today, we would take a bumpy truck ride together into the northern mountains of the country and into the city of Pignon. We would pull in the front gate of the school and our truck would be mobbed by hundreds of school children, sticking their fingers in the windows, flashing crazy smiles for your cameras. Ericlee loved these children. As a teacher, he desired for them to get a solid education. As a coach, he desired for them to have a place to stretch and play and compete. Last year we raised money for a playground for the kids, which stands beautiful and regal today at that school. In fact, it’s the talk of the town because there’s nothing like it for miles around. This year we are raising money to complete the play yard with a smooth, cement top replacing the sharp gravel where they play now. We also are raising funds toward another wild and beautiful dream of Ericlee’s – equipment for a CrossFit-style gym for the city.
As you row and sweat and cheer today, I ask you to envision our friends in Haiti. I challenge you to lean in hard, to push yourself and to hear that booming coaching voice of my husband saying, “You can do it. Dig deep. One more.” I have no doubts that his spirit is here with us in this place.
I’d like to conclude with one of Ericlee’s favorite Bible verses. He was a man who loved to read God’s Word and use it to inspire during any workout. In 2 Timothy 4:7 it says,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
This is what my man was all about – fighting through the difficult, finishing his race well and all the while keeping his faith. I pray today that you, too, will be challenged by his courageous example.