We talked with Sebastian Paz about his organization based out of Cincinnati called Vetwod. You may remember Sebastian in his garage gym feature a few weeks ago.
Learn about his creative funding ideas and no-excuses mentality in our interview below with the founder of Vetwod himself!
Photo courtesy of Instagram @VetWOD
Howdy, Fringe fans. Peter Keller here from Fringe Sport, and today I'm talking with Sebastian Paz of Vetwod. Sebastian's based out of just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, and he's got an interesting story to share with us about the founding and funding of Vetwod. Sebastian, how you doing today?
Sebastian Paz: Good, I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, it's a pleasure. Always a pleasure to chat. Before we kick this off, tell our audience a little bit about Vetwod. What is that?
Sebastian Paz: Vetwod stands for, the initial part stands for veteran, and then wod is for workout of the day. Essentially, it's a community organization, and we aim to bring support and a way for veterans, first responders, and military to cope with PTSD, suicide, or any other issues. We aim to integrate exercise and community to just support each other and help them and help ourselves.
I love it, and what a great cause, obviously. I know that that's really much needed these days. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and what led you to start Vetwod?
Sebastian Paz: It's a long story, but here in the past few years, I just got out of the military eight months ago. I did a long deployment right before I got out. I've always used exercise, any kind of exercise honestly, to help de-stress, to keep myself motivated, and just on task. I'm very goal-oriented. I was at a location where there was a non-profit CrossFit gym, and the equipment was really run down. Of course, everything was exposed to the elements like sun, sand, dirt, everything in the Middle East. I wanted to leave my deployment with the gym in a better condition when I got there.
I ran a fundraiser attached to a competition, just to kind of raise morale in the area. That allowed me to connect in the community and meet a lot of cool people. Moving forward from there, I was really interested in doing more for the community in general, but specifically for veterans, first responders, and military and their families, too. A lot of times, their spouses or friends and family are also very attached to that military community.
A friend and myself, her name's Kate, we decided to start this. It was honestly just a one-time competition, and we were going to see how it went. It went so well, we got such a great response from the community that it was just obvious that we were going to keep doing it. This year will be our Second Annual Vetwod, and in between the competitions we've done a lot of work just getting involved in the community. It's been really good.
I love to hear that. I really connected with this idea of leaving that CrossFit gym better than you found it. I was a Boy Scout when I was younger and I vividly remember the campsite rule, you always leave the campsite better than when you found it, not just the same as when you found it. Kudos to you for doing that.
Sebastian Paz: Thank you.
Pleasure. Tell us a little bit more about the fundraiser with the competition. How did that work?
Sebastian Paz: It was actually a quite complicated venture. Military bases overseas are, whatever the host country is or whatever the agreement is between the area, there's a lot of politics and leadership involved. We couldn't just do a regular fundraiser in that country because we'd have to ask permission to the country and it could literally take months, if not years, for it to be approved. My way of working around that, and I guess it doesn't matter now because I'm out of the military so I can't get in trouble for it anymore, but my way around that was, I did a local competition that was quote, unquote, free, and by word-of-mouth encouraged all the members or anybody, through social media, whatever, to make a donation for the registration for whatever they wanted.
It was kind of hush-hush. At the same time, we raised a lot of money. I was able to bring a lot of equipment in, so it did raise some eyebrows. I got talked to and some of my supervisors got talked to. It ended up working out pretty smooth. But yeah, it was a local competition to raise morale, is what it was officially. On the backside of that, it was a fundraiser so that I, Sebastian, not the Air Force, not the military, not the country, could make a donation to the gym of about $15,000 worth of equipment. It didn't come from the gym, it didn't come from an organization, it came from me directly. That's how it showed up on paper.
Awesome. It sounds like you really worked the regulations and made that work in any way that you could, but really left the place in a better situation. Prior to this call you had keyed me up saying that it would be interesting to talk about how you initially funded Vetwod. Is that story you just told me what you're talking about, or is there something else interesting you wanted.
Sebastian Paz: That was a little bit before Vetwod. Vetwod came along probably a year, year and a half after that competition.
Alright. Tell us a little bit more about the funding and founding of Vetwod.
Sebastian Paz: I just got out of the military. I'm a husband, father of two, that is going to graduate school, so is really busy. Most of my funds, all of my funds, are tied up with family and just regular dad and husband-type bills. Although I have some funding to play with, I didn't quite want to take money away from our family. One day at my school, somebody mentioned or somebody saw something about donating plasma. I'm like, man, that sounds like a great way to bring some income. Very often in between classes, or even while I was doing homework, I would go down to this plasma donation place.
My goal right away was okay, great. However much I bring in for this over the span of X amount of time, that's all going to go towards Vetwod, and that's what I'm going to give to the cause. I did use minimal funds from work and whatever, but that was how I personally funded a lot of what we did initially.
Wow. A lot of people talk about putting their blood, sweat, and tears into their gyms, but you have literally founded the gym based on your blood and I'm sure sweat, and if you're anything like me, a couple of tears along the way as well.
Sebastian Paz: Yeah, that's what my wife said, she was laughing. At the time, that wasn't my purpose, but looking back, I'm like, yeah, that's pretty cool. More than just doing that, I'm sure I could have found funds other ways, but I'm a really hard worker and I like to invest a lot and put a lot towards a cause. I just figured this was a great way to earn it and lay a good foundation behind it.
Wow, that's amazing. I can tell just based on talking with you for this conversation that you've got a lot of really inventive solutions to funding, and I'm sure a lot of other stuff. What are some other interesting things that you've done with Vetwod or with the gym previously?
Sebastian Paz: Interesting? I've always been an athlete and I've always been very goal-oriented, or community-oriented. Even just my garage gym, it's a free garage gym to the whole neighborhood. All my neighbors and anybody in the city where I live has the code to our garage. I have boot camps out of my garage and people come and work out with me. It's just all about the community. I've supported, through Vetwod or individually, any cause. I'm also thinking of, if I'm able to do something good and help, I'm going to do it.
I may not have the money. I may not have the equipment to give. I use social media, for example, as a great tool. I may not be able to give you a dollar, but guess what? I'm going to spread out, tell everybody about it, and hopefully, we can do something about it together. Just very community-oriented.
Awesome, I love it. Sebastian, if people want to learn more about Vetwod or contact you, what's the best way that they can find you or find Vetwod?
Sebastian Paz: They can go to Vetwod.com or Vetwod on Instagram. We have a lot of content on Instagram and on the website for registrations, apparel sales, which 7Five Clothing does our apparel. Yeah, we're pretty active on social media. Not just for the competition or for the fundraiser, but also keeping in touch with people. People message us, people tag us. We want to be active in the community and remind this population, or anybody. There's been people that are not even related to the military that have reached out and said, hey, what you guys do, it impacts me too, because we deal with suicide as well and other mental health issues. So yeah, social media and Vetwod.com.
I love it. Thank you so much. Well, believe it or not Sebastian, our time is up here. This has been Peter Keller from Fringe Sport, and I've been talking with Sebastian Paz of Vetwod. Go out there and lift something heavy today.