Giving Back, Getting Back (The Kelley O’Hara One) (DC)

In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) is a BFD. They won the World Cup this summer, and just this week their captain, Megan Rapinoe, was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year while the entire USWNT was announced as Time magazine’s Athlete of the Year. BFD.

Needless to say, when World Cup Champion/Olympic Gold Medalist/Starting Defender/Total Badass Kelley O’Hara direct messaged us a few weeks back on Instagram saying, “I love what y’all are about,” and asked if we could work together on a donation drive, the answer (following a brief period of hyperventilation and checking her verified account to make sure we weren’t being ruthlessly trolled), was a resounding FUCK YEAH. Snaps to Emma for responding with poise and restraint, so as not to scare Kelley away with unbridled enthusiasm.

Kelley O'Hara hands out high-fives at the top of the Lincoln Memorial
How many of us are never washing our hands again?? Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.

We identified Thrive DC as the target for our efforts — and from the jump, we knew this was going to be HUGE. For being a world-renowned athlete, Kelley is incredibly down to earth. I could write an entire blog about how chill she was to work with and how she embodies NPDC’s values, but just ask me sometime at a workout if you’ve got an extra 2-3 hours. Once we finalized a date and confirmed with Thrive DC, it.was.on.

Flash forward to Wednesday, 12/4, end of the 6:20 workout. We’d held a make-up PR day, so in addition to the litany of reminders about storing your score in the tracker, we got to unleash this ludicrously good news on people. You can imagine the crowd reaction. Joy. Glee. Sheer confusion as to how this opportunity fell into our laps. The following Wednesday couldn’t arrive quickly enough. Over the next week, we continued to hype the workout, be interviewed by the Washington City Paper, and ride the wave of tremendous excitement that comes with a national hero mentioning your org BY NAME on Instagram. When Wednesday morning came, we were all just about bursting out of our flesh suits with excitement.

Cold. Dark. A few flurries here and there. It was a quintessential December morning for many November Project DC attendees. The 5:30 crew ground it out early, as they do every week, helping us work out the kinks. By the time we were wrapping up announcements and the group photo, dozens of folks had gathered on the plaza — standing around, seemingly looking for the soccer superstar. When she jogged up to me on the plaza and gave me a hug, I could have ascended to Heaven (or wherever I’ll end up), right then and there. Kelley introduced herself to the 5:30 squad and posed for a few selfies, and then it was on to the Big Kahuna.

The crowds of people run up the stairs at the Lincoln Memorial
massive and we mean MASSIVE turnout.

Logistically, having loads of people at the Lincoln Memorial is a nightmare. It’s easy to create bottlenecks, newbies are frequently lost/trying to figure out what is going on, and we have very specific stipulations within the confines of our National Park Service permit that we work hard to adhere to. (Shoutout to Max Lowndes for fielding the brief pit-stop made by a rather cheery police officer to check in on all this ruckus.)

It was important to shepherd everyone where they needed to be (bringing coat, hat, mittens and gloves donations to Coat Check, bouncing by the Reflecting Pool, etc.) and make sure we kept things clear and concise. We tried to design a workout that spread the hundreds of folks out, displayed some classic NP shenanigans in the form of partner exercises, and enabled anyone to participate.

From start to finish, the workout seemed to weirdly operate in slow motion and at hyper-speed at the same time. While screaming myself hoarse during the bounce, looking out over the scores of people in attendance, I just wanted to remember how incredibly special this moment, and everything else to follow it, was. Jake proceeded to execute a flawless workout explanation that absolutely no one heard because KELLEY FUCKING O’HARA WAS AT NOVEMBER PROJECT.

To anyone who gave directions, remembered the correct amount of reps, sought out a new partner, or did anything at all to make yesterday go as smoothly as it did, thank you. We don’t always see these small moments happen during workouts — especially during a workout as big and hectic as yesterday’s — but we know they’re occurring nonetheless, and we appreciate y’all so much for it.

A photo of Kelley O'Hara sitting in the crowd during announcements

Kelley ran logs, over-the-topped, reflecting pool sprinted, wall sat, fidget-spinnered, high-fived, and burnout burpee crushed her way into our collective hearts and minds (she really did the workout, which was awesome). Also awesome? The amount of fans who came out — whether it was youngins who have maybe just touched a soccer ball for the first time, high school and collegiate players from the area, or just good old USWNT stans, it was incredible to see the weight of her presence at NP.

It’s important to stop and reflect on exactly how meaningful this was. Kelley sought NP out! DM’d US on Instagram. Before the workout, she knew the November Project ethos of just showing up and building a community through shared early morning movement (!!! and I mean !!!!!!). November Project globally is a force and a vehicle for positivity, an undeniable Good Factory, and we were cranking out one hell of a product yesterday. 

A few thank yous and notes, and then I’ll put a bow on this unforgettable morning:

  • Kelley O’Hara – thanks for reaching out. Thanks for taking an interest in DC, and giving back to the community. Thanks for staying, for over half an hour, and taking pictures with everyone who wanted one. Thank you for being an amazing ambassador for your sport. And thank you for enabling us to donate hundreds of new and gently used winter items to Thrive DC, not to mention working with our small, dedicated crew who stayed back to load up Jake’s entire Civic before going about their day 
  • Matt Anzur, for the amazing collection of photos from yesterday.
  • Phil Houston, for volunteering his car to take donations to drop off (on a work day!).
  • Thomas Harvey, the 6:20 Coat Check Hero, for staying with all the donations until 7:30!!
  • YOU- Thank YOU all for showing up. Whether it was your first or your 500th workout with us, we are so grateful you decided to show up.
  • If you’d like to learn more about Thrive DC and their mission, check them out here.
  • Friday (yeah, we do this thing on Fridays, too — and Mondays) we’ll be working out at REI at 6:30AM. Verbals encouraged.

Speaking for Jake, Emma, and myself, we are fortunate to lead this free fitness thing three times a week. We are also fortunate that November Project has grown well beyond a gathering of people moving and working out in the early hours of their day. It is a movement full of incredibly generous, thoughtful and kind people who have combined forces to do incredible things like donate thousands of dollars to hurricane relief (in 24 hours!) and provide winter clothing for the homeless population in DC, two major contributions in a sea of small, daily, good deeds that occur on the regular. The foundation of November Project has always been and will continue to be compassionate, fun-loving,  hardworking people, whoever they may be (even if they are Kelley fucking O’Hara). Thanks for showing up. We’re glad you’re here.

much love, DC.

a group photo from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
put it in the books! #LFG
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