Just like most people in this country, once the news had spread about the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando two Sundays ago, my heart broke. And just like everyone else, I watched the news coverage in disbelief that 49 members of the LGBT community — 49 humans — had just senselessly lost their lives while doing what all young (and old) people should be doing on a Saturday night — going out with their friends and loved ones to dance, drink, and enjoy life. And like so many others, it hit me that I could have just as easily been one of those 49, as I, too, have spent so many Saturday nights packed into a lively establishment dancing and drinking away with my friends. And then the next thought hit me, and this one made me mad and made me wonder how our world has gotten to this place: I don’t feel safe anymore.
I know even admitting that only gives strength to those who choose hate over love and perform these acts of true terror, but that’s how I feel and I know I’m not alone. I’m not going to lock myself at home or stop living my life, but in spin class the next day the thought actually went through my head, “What if someone walked in here with a gun and started shooting, what would I do?” Just that the thought even went through my head caught me completely off guard. Luckily, no such thing happened.
However, I just couldn’t shake it — the 49 people who were killed, the 50+ more who were injured, the 49 families who are trying to wrap their heads around the fact that one of their loved ones was just murdered in the most horrific way, the hundreds of people who were in that club and had to witness and experience such terror, the community of Orlando who was rocked to their core, and the entire nation and world who suddenly realized that we are all now at risk.
I went to bed on Monday night with an itching feeling that I wanted to do something. I mean, I have a very public platform and I am part of one of the most powerful industries and communities in the world. I couldn’t just sit back and watch anymore. Then I woke up to a Facebook message from a wonderful trainer, Danny Zapata, who reached out and said — I feel like our industry needs to step up and say something about this gun issue, and I feel like you are the only person who can make this happen. I was not only touched, but I knew he was right — we had to do something. It was just the push that I needed. I told him to give me a few minutes to think on it, and it didn’t take long before #GunsAgainstGunViolence was born.
The idea? What if I brought together all the strength of all of the “guns” (the arm kind) in the fitness industry, and used them to fight back against guns (the firearm kind)? What if I could showcase this community, filled with some of the strongest people in the world (including many members of the LGBT community), use their strength (and guns) for love and good — to help people get healthier every single day — and not for violence.
The concept was to paint hearts on the inside of everyone's arms and photograph them with their “guns out.” Not only did I love the idea of turning the notion of a “gun for hate” into a “gun for love,” but I wanted something that was easily replicable and sharable in the hopes that people would start following in suit and drawing, sticking, or painting hearts on their own “guns” and sharing their own photos. In other words, yes, we would like to BREAK THE INTERNET with LOVE!
So I reached out to my creative partner in crime, photographer Chris Fanning, and told him I had an idea in response to Orlando. He informed me that he couldn’t sleep over the same issue. I pitched it to him and he was in. I emailed my team who informed me I was insane, but they loved it and were also on board. Within two hours I had emailed every studio owner and trainer I knew, as well as other influential people I am lucky enough to have in my life who I knew would share my passion on this issue. By the end of the day, the industry was mobilized and we had over 150 people signed up for a photoshoot on Monday.
But just making a statement wasn’t enough. I wanted to do something more tangible to give back to those families and that community. I know better than many that no amount of money can ever make up for losing a loved one, but this is the best way we can give back as strangers from another city. So I reached out to my friends who had just launched a new amazing fundraising platform called Spotfund, which only allows people to donate $1-$3 dollars to any given cause. However, when you give, you must share it with your social network — thus, moving the fundraising model away from the size of your wallet to the size of your community. It couldn’t have been a better fit for this. We decided together to give the proceeds to OneOrlando, a charity started by the mayor of Orlando to benefit the families of the victims.
Come Monday, over 200 people from the NYC fitness community, fashion designers, authors, TV personalities, news anchors, and more showed up filled with love at Bandier in Flatiron to get hearts painted on their arms and have their photo taken “showing their guns.” I can’t even begin to describe how special that day was and how that room was just buzzing with the people from the greatest community on the planet, and how I kept having to hold back tears just thinking about how lucky I am to be able to be a leader for such an incredible group of people. People with true courage, true strength, and true love —which will ALWAYS be stronger than hate.
Perhaps this is all silly. Perhaps painting hearts on our arms and showing our muscles won’t change a thing. Perhaps nobody will follow in suit and this will all have been in vane. However, at the end of the day, I couldn’t be more proud to have brought this incredible community of leaders together to spread just a little more love into this world — because you can never have enough. And most importantly, if we can make any impact on the lives of the families of those victims, I feel I will have done something.
So we ask you to join us in this campaign of love and hearts. We ask you to join us with Spotfund to raise money for OneOrlando. And we ask you to have the courage to stand up for something.
Click over to our front page for all the details and follow the hashtag #GunsAgainstGunViolence on social media to see it all unfold.
A few notes: We have shut down any new content on the site for the next two weeks to dedicate the site to this campaign. However, you can always go back and check out articles you might have missed in recent weeks. Additionally, we are going to be removing all advertising from the site during this campaign out of respect to the victims.
We can’t wait to see your guns of love — and Orlando, we love you!
All my love,
Founder, CEO, and Host
The Sweat Life
#GunsAgainstGunViolence #LoveIsLove #LoveWins #DisarmHate