The Ultimate Hawaii Trail Run is coming up on September 17,2016. 100% of the proceeds from this event go to support the CrossFit Poipu’s kids program that is free for all the young people on the island. For more information, including registration, donation or sponsorship for The Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run, CLICK HERE.
Two years ago, Aaron Hoff was just brainstorming fundraising ideas, trying to find a way for Kauai’s youth to avoid the same traps he had fallen into. Hoff, who will celebrate nearly two decades of sobriety from drugs and alcohol on Christmas Day, had opened a CrossFit gym on the Hawaiian island, CrossFit Poipu, in 2013.
But while he was committed to changing the lives of everyone that walked through his doors, he knew there was a lot of island families who didn’t have the income for CrossFit. Hoff never turned away anyone who walked through the doors of Poipu, but the program —and interest around Kauai— started to demand more space and resources.
And The Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run was born.
“A lot of these kids were growing up and drugs and drinking by the beach is all they know. There’s basically no other road to say, ‘I should try this instead,” said Hoff, who uses 100 percent of the profits from the run to support the youth program. “Now, the kids have an option where they can actually do great things in this program. They are seeing that [drugs and alcohol] isn’t the only way to live, there’s this whole other side to life.”
Hoff’s idea for the fundraising run has come a long ways since its inception in 2014, when he walked around with the flier in his pocket for a week, unsure if he could carry out an idea of this caliber. There was only 30 people signed up for the first run though backing from title sponsor Progenex helped bring the turnout closer to 300. The following fall approximately 450 participants — including some of the CrossFit Games’ top athletes — took on the untouched grounds by special approval through the private Knudsen Trust Land.
“The first time [in ’14] the kids were still at CrossFit Poipu, they didn’t have a lot to take care of them,” said Games veteran and Progenex athlete Miranda Oldroyd. “It’s been really cool to see from the money they’ve raised through the event, the ability they have now to have all these kids involved. And what they are doing with them is just awesome.”
Poipu’s kids program is now in a 4,000-square-foot space attached to the island’s youth center. Hoff said the facility houses anywhere from 30-60 athletes on any given day. And the money raised from 2015’s trail run was enough to guarantee another free year of the program, which provides monthly memberships, proper shoes, jump ropes and other CrossFit equipment.
Hoff, who has designated times for high school and junior high athletes, is hoping to expand to younger kids on the island. He’s also hoping to raise enough to help feed the kids, to reinforce proper nutrition, and continue to establish the youth program as a pipeline to a better life. The program currently runs 364 days a year, using proceeds from the trail run and donations to keep Hoff’s vision alive.
“It has had a huge impact on this island, and it’s not only the kids,” Hoff said of the race. “lt’s also pouring over into the adults that are struggling over here, too. A lot of my friends are getting sober because of CrossFit Poipu and the trail run. It’s reaching out to not only the kids, but the adults to who are taking part in it.”
The Ultimate Hawaiian Trail run, which will be on September 17 this year, consists of a 10 K, 5K or a 5K team, with a luau to follow. Those who don’t want to do the run can still buy tickets to the luau and the island’s keiki (children under 18) can register for the run for free.
“Anyone can do this run. We’ve got CrossFit Games athletes, little kids doing it, people who have never done a 5k in their life and people who have no interest in CrossFit, just moving and having a good time out there,” Oldroyd said of the event, which she attended again last year, but had to watch from the sidelines due to knee surgery.
“[Progenex] has really have gotten behind this one and put a lot of time and effort and money into [this race] because we have strong ties to Hawaii and surfers and we’ve seen the impact we’ve made.”
One of Hoff’s first young athletes, Hiilani Wilson, finished seventh this year in Northern California’s region in the CrossFit Open Teen Division. It was a proud moment for Hoff, but not as much as when one of his athlete’s parents come in to say thank you for saving their child’s life. These are the moments that keep Hoff inspired to continue to grow and to change the outlook for all of Kauai’s youth.
“This is a safe environment for them,” he said. “These kids are getting in shape, their grades are going up. And their lives are going up with it.”
For more information, including registration, donation or sponsorship for The Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run, CLICK HERE.
Course photos provided by Aaron Hoff and Tattooed Media.