GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Despite a year filled with shutdowns, restrictions, and other challenges, Fit Body Boot Camp owner Matt Wilber is giving back in a big way this holiday season.
His charity The Big Give was able to reach its goal of raising $150,000 to help 700 kids in need this Christmas.
"We knew this year was going to be tougher than ever, but then we just put in the work," Wilber told FOX 17. "We decided that we can't give up on this."
Wilber began The Big Give in 2013, shortly after opening his first Fit Body Boot Camp location in Grand Haven.
Wilber said he was struck by a conversation he had with a client at the time. "It just really opened my eyes to the true need in our community," he explained. "It started really small. We saw a need inside of our community, and then it's blossomed into what it's blossomed into today."
"We gave when we really weren't in a position to give," he continued. "And a lot of people think that you have to be in a position to be able to give, but you can give. It doesn't have to be money. It can be time, it can be your energy, but ultimately it's about being resourceful."
The Big Give was able to raise $3,400 the first year, helping about 20 families.
"As our business has grown, we've been able to help more, so every year we've almost doubled," said Wilber. "So we went from $3,400 to $8,000 to $16,000 to $34,000 to $64,000, and the last two years we've been able to raise over $150,000 and help over 700 kids."
It's a team effort to raise the money: Fit Body coaches complete crazy physical challenges to raise money, and clients pitch in with donations.
"A lot of the coaches put their bodies on the line, whether it was lunges, squats, deadlifts, burpees for every dollar raised," said Wilber. "And that's the greatest thing about our community, is that no matter what the obstacle is in front of us, when we all come together, amazing things can happen."
After partnering with local school systems to identify which students to help, the Fit Body team goes shopping. Each child gets basic necessities along with a few of their special requests.
The gifts are then delivered to each school district, to be distributed just in time for Christmas.
"It feels amazing. Obviously, we don't get to see the kids on the back end, but we do get to hear the stories from the teachers," said Wilber. "It's painstaking work to be able to raise that money to go shopping, but when you hear all those stories, it makes it worth it ... I'm just really proud that we're able to do that and just be a small part of being able to hopefully provide some light and some hope to kids and their families this Christmas season."
Wilber and his team also hold fundraisers to help families during back to school time. This year, his crew also helped a special campaign to assist local restaurants struggling amid the pandemic.
To learn more about The Big Give, or to donate (fundraising has already started for 2021!) click here.