Highland Park Grant Follow up

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555 Fitness often gets asked what it takes to be awarded the “Strength is Our Foundation” Fitness Equipment Grant.  Depending on who you ask , you’ll receive a slightly different response. There is no perfect answer, no keywords/slogans/name drops, no perfect equation to craft an application that will guarantee a department to receive our grant.  


HOWEVER, having given away 5 grants to 5 deserving departments – one thing is clear: NO department sat on the couch waiting around to be handed $3,000 worth of equipment.


Driven. Motivated.  Enthusiastic. Passionate. Creative.


These adjectives describe our 2016 grant winner, Highland Park Fire Department in Detroit, Michigan.


They didn’t sit around their kitchen table aimlessly whining and complaining about the condition of their fitness facility. Instead of making excuses, they were making changes.


The unnerving thing for us at 555 Fitness, is we know nothing about the department we were giving a grant to except for what  is written in their grant application (and maybe some social media “research”).  Eric and Adam, firefighters of Highland Park, wrote and submitted their department’s application and once we arrived at their firehouse, we realized everything they wrote about  Highland Park was true.  


All of their equipment was brought from firefighters homes, donated, or taken from burned buildings.  We saw plenty of pictures of their dilapidated gym; caution tape on the treadmill, Olympic bars that were bent and rusted, a pull up/squat rack that had a weight under one leg to level it out with another picture showing a soon-to-fail weld with the caption “this pullup could be your last”.

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But then we saw some ingenuity: part fireman resourcefulness, part macGyver creativity .  A Wide Grip Bar used as a moving pull up bar, tires and hoses that have been fashioned into sleds/hose drag simulators, two metal bars suspended  by rafters for monkey bars,  an old fire helmet that was painted and welded and repurposes into a chalk bucket.

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This was a department trying. Making something out of nothing. Another added bonus, their Chief, former college football player, was appointed at the beginning of 2016, had made  physical fitness a high priority mandating 1 hour of physical training per shift as well as a yearly physical fitness evaluation.


The Chief not only set a high standard for himself but expected the same from the rest of the department.  We heard, and verified stories, of the Chief (then Lieutnenant), waking his probies up at 3 am and making them flip tires in full turn out gear to prepare them for the rigors of what their profession had in store.


On the morning of the grant presentation, August 5, 2016, 555 Fitness had the pleasure of meeting the department, and found them to be enthusiastic and appreciative of what they received.  The workout we put together allowed for the entire crew and attendees to simultaneously work out, and in the spirit of the Chief who we were told LOVED tires, we made sure to incorporate the equipment they already used in the workout.  Even with different ages, genders, ranks and levels of fitness, everyone was able to perform each of the movements, with modifications if necessary, and everyone finished the workout with a sense of accomplishment… some even said they had fun and would do it again.


What was both encouraging and frightening was to meet the families that also came to the firehouse for the grant presentation.  We were introduced to the people that  anxiously  wait for these firefighters to return home after their shift.   A pregnant wife, a mother, brothers/sisters/daughters/sons and childhood friends – these are all people would be the beneficiaries of a fitter, stronger, healthier firefighter.   At that moment, looking at their faces,  we were reminded that our work isn’t reserved for the firefighters who swear to protect life and property; we are trying to prevent their nightmare – the untimely and preventable death of someone they love.  
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We were honored to give highland Park our  BEST grant package YET.  Our Grant Contributors provided the most Versatile, Durable and  Reliable Equipment that we believe will  supplement the equipment  that was missing from Highland Park’s fitness room.  


We can undoubtedly say that the support of our affiliates and partners made this grant possible, and these companies and people are putting the health and fitness of firefighters FIRST.


BeaverFit Usa

Maverick Athletic Co

Mobell Muscle


Assault AirBike

Brute Force Sandbags



LifeAid Bev Co

Past Parallel

Fit for Duty Consulting


We can safely say, Highland Park and their members were deserving of the fitness equipment they received (not just because they bought the 555 Crew Delicious  Donuts).  This is a department that will continue to work out days, weeks, months and years after the smell of the new equipment has subsided. Their equipment will be collections dings and scratches, not dust.  




Published by Pip

Pip is the director of 555 Fitness and a Lieutenant with the City Of New Brunswick Fire Department in New Jersey. Pip is also a NREMT-P and a Crossfit Level 1 instructor who coaches at Iron Crossfit North Brunswick