By JOHN J. BURO
FREEHOLD -The two men with the uncommon last name sat in a corner of the empty facility and talked about the bygone days. The conversation was not about any family history, merely because one seemingly doesn’t exist; but of several distinct live experiences they happen to share.
The most profound of these experiences is having met Jim Raffone, the founder of JAR of Hope, whose battle to save his nine year-old son, Jamesy, is so well-chronicled, it could translate into a Lifetime movie. Not that meeting Raffone is unique by any stretch: he does have 3,100 Facebook friends (and counting) and has spoken to several thousand more along the way who now have a clearer understanding of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
It was after first hearing of Raffone’s message years earlier that Rick Buro, owner of Full Dimension CrossFit (865 Business Route 33, Freehold), appreciated his good fortune even more. The 37 year-old Manalapan resident, a father to three healthy girls between the ages of six and 11, knew that somehow, some way, he had to get behind the cause.
This is his story:
Once a shortstop for the 1998-2002 Kutztown University Golden Bears (PA), Buro padded his 6’0” frame by an additional 50 pounds over the next several years. Yet, in retrospect, this dark time also proved to shed its fair share of daylight.
“As I explain it to both potential clients, as well as friends and family, it was more of a mental evolution than a physical one,” he said. “I had played sports my whole life. But, there was a four-to-five year window after my collegiate career that I slowly -and without even knowing- lost mental focus. As a result, I began to physically deteriorate. I’d put on a couple of pounds a month and, fast forward a few years later, I was looking at a version of myself who was fifty pounds overweight and in a poor mental state.”
Buro, who had lettered in baseball, basketball and football during his high school years before signing with Kutztown (Division II), was always on the go. The grand plan was to play baseball -anywhere- for as long as he could, and then coach.
Coaching, Buro said, was always a part of him. He looked around the vast setting, with the equipment neatly stored away, and appeared to appreciate the irony. “I just thought it would be on a dirt baseball field, not in a gym with rubber mats.”
As with many former athletes, “not having an outlet of activity” ultimately doomed him. But, only in the short term. “I always had the ability to move, the ability to express myself through movement and, by not playing a sport, I had taken that all away.”
Not that there are any regrets. Buro, who also makes time to coach his daughter’s softball team, feels he can be better at that, too, simply because of his mindset. “Had I just continued on the path from player to coach,” he surmises, “I wouldn’t have been in the same mental state I’m in now. So, I don’t think it would’ve led to the same desire to be physically fit.”
The turning point -or “Aha!” moment-, was the birth of his second daughter. Buro, then an occupational therapist residing in Las Vegas and already 20 pounds down, was staring down a prescription for Lipitor, which is designed to lower the LDL-C (“bad” cholesterol), while simultaneously elevating its HDL-C counterpart.
(Note: unlike the rarity of Jamesy’s illness, Buro’s condition was much more known: atorvastatin -marketed under the Lipitor brand- generated more than $125 billion in sales between 1996-2012 and was then recognized as the world’s best-selling medication.)
“(Kayla) was -literally- two days old.” And, thus, inside Nevada’s Spring Valley Hospital, a life-altering decision was made. “There was no way I’m going on medicine after looking at that daughter of mine. I have a responsibility to her, as well as my older one, and I was going to be around for them. That was the push I needed.
“I remember seeing her through the window and glancing at the script. You want to talk about a turning point? That was the moment I said, ‘There’s no looking back now’.”
Still, where optimum health is concerned, there are red flags everywhere. Even if one has never been driven by the fear of failure, those who’ve shed countless pounds are eternally mindful that a regression to their previously-unhealthy ways is quite possible.
“Fitness,” Buro reminded, “is a lifestyle. it’s not a crash diet. It’s a change that happens throughout time. And, in that time, there are going to be peaks and valleys. And, it’s about maintaining them; it’s about not getting too high and not getting too low -so, not being too extreme in the weight loss and not getting to the point where the wheels fall off.
“We’re human beings. Life happens, stress happens. Sometimes, the Girl Scout cookies are a little more enticing than attending a five a.m. workout. I think the beauty of CrossFit, and now being a CrossFit owner, is that I have one hundred twenty-plus members who are holding me accountable.
He smiled. “So, it’s pretty hard for me to complete the fall-off.”
Easter, 2010. Buro, then in Vegas, was a member of a local establishment, aptly named SinCity CrossFit, and can recall telling his family that he will own such a place one day. He didn’t know his “When?” or “How?”, but he -most definitely- knew his “Why?”
The answer to the last question, Buro stated, lied in the people and the motivation they provided and what that, in turn, did was “shift my mental strength. That was the first thing which really changed: how I saw myself, how I saw fitness and, together, how those things really helped me to continue with this journey.
“The community -the culture- that we’ve created here has not been forced; it’s something that has evolved over a long time. Though Buro has had an ownership stake since 2011, he didn’t take full control until 2015. “For the last three years,” he says proudly, “we have really defined who we are. That’s not a definition through text, or words, it’s through action. You can feel the energy in class, and that’s the difference-maker.”