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Local fitness studios raising money for foster kids

Orangetheory Fitness takes a different path to staying in shape with its unique group-fitness approach to working out. But the community-centered gyms, which co-owner Matthew Higgins said “help people achieve more life,” are looking beyond their doors to make an impact on the lives of local foster kids.

Higgins said the Orangetheory Fitness in Morgantown, along with locations in Bridgeport, Charleston, and Barboursville, are partnering with a nonprofit called Comfort Cases that strives to restore dignity and hope to children in the foster system.

He said the fitness studios teamed up with Comfort Cases because it presents an opportunity to carry forward what they value – their community – and bringing that community together to have a greater good to the local area.

“There are more than 6,200 children in the foster system here in West Virginia alone,” Higgins said, “and we saw that as an opportunity to bring our community together and to raise some money and partner with a great organization to really just help with that challenge.”

According to Higgins, this is the fourth year the Morgantown location will participate since they opened in 2020 and will be the first event for the Bridgeport location. But it is the fifth year Orangetheory Fitness in West Virginia will raise funds for the event. In that time, more than $25,000 has been raised by the gyms for local foster kids.

Through the years, Higgins said they learned that more often than not, children entering the foster care system are given a black trash bag to place their belongings into.

“What’s more demoralizing than that?” he said. “It sends a message like ‘what are you worth’ if you’re given a trash bag for your belongings.”

With all the funds raised, backpacks and comfort items are purchased so that instead of a trash bag, foster children in the local area will now receive a backpack.

Higgins said the bags or “cases” contain things like a blanket, a brand-new pair of pajamas with the tag on them, an age-appropriate book or coloring book, crayons, pencils, toothpaste, toothbrush, and other hygiene items like a new bar of soap.

“Could you imagine going into a home that is new to you and having to use a dirty bar of soap?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s those small things that we may not think about, but for a foster child that is going into the system, and you’ve got your own bar of soap – that’s a big deal.”

All of the Orangetheory Fitness locations in West Virginia, including Morgantown and Bridgeport, will kick off the fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 17 and will continue through Friday Dec. 1.

“We’re hoping that we can get a lot of community members involved and break the records that we have raised in the past so we can get more fundraising dollars, more comfort cases and be able to impact more children entering the foster system here in West Virginia,” Higgins said.

Anyone is able to donate to the cause – you do not have to be a member of Orangetheory. Higgins said community members are able to donate to the fundraiser in several ways.

Donations will be accepted at all of their physical West Virginia studio locations. They will also accept donations by phone. The Morgantown location can be reached at 304-596-0500 and the Bridgeport location can be reached at 304-982-7333.

Higgins said they will also be posting donation links on their social media pages – @orangetheorymorgantown and @orangetheorybridgeport.

“You can be assured that that money, wherever you are residing in West Virginia is going to stay local to that community,” he said.

Following the fundraiser, a packing party will be held at Orangetheory on Dec. 9 to put the items in the backpacks.

The goal for this year’s fundraiser is 90 backpacks, but Higgins said in years past they have had upwards of 120.

According to Comfort Cases, each ‘case’ costs approximately $55.

Once the backpacks are filled and ready to go, Higgins said Genesis Youth Crisis Center will assist by distributing them to foster children in the Morgantown and Bridgeport areas.

Learn more here.

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