After building the Mike Semkus Memorial Workout Area behind Pierson High School last year, the nonprofit Dawgpatch Bandits broke ground on their newest fitness station project this month at the Long Island Center for Recovery in Hampton Bays. The station is part of the Bandits’ newest initiative to build outdoor fitness stations at rehabilitation and recovery centers in high-impact areas.
Dawgpatch’s first station at Pierson was in honor of Semkus, who died of an opioid overdose, and the station serves the local students. Sag Harbor native Drew Harvey, the founder of Dawgpatch, said he wanted to help establish a foundation of health and fitness in Sag Harbor kids from an early age.
That station served as the model for Harvey and Dawgpatch’s new project, which is a similar station designed to serve those suffering from substance abuse during their treatment.
The Dawgpatch Bandits’ mission is to inspire positive action, build a better community, and support individuals in their recovery, with their current goal to promote fitness as a positive outlet for individuals in substance abuse and mental health recovery. With this new fitness station at the recovery center, Harvey said this follows the group’s mission statement.
“It’s great for these young kids and it’s great to be at the high school,” Harvey said. “But how can we directly help people that are currently struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues find this. So we said, let’s build one at an actual recovery center, that can be used by people every day. They can use fitness more than anyone.”
The team bought all the workout equipment for the facilities and shipped it to the recovery center. When it arrived, Harvey and other volunteers, including patients at the facility, brought their own tools and built the station. The building process took two days, Harvey said, one to pour the concrete and set the equipment, and the second day, after the concrete dried, they cut away the forms and finished the base.
Harvey started partnering with the Long Island Recovery Center two years ago, when he started a scholarship for those in recovery who have run out of insurance to be able to stay at the facility.
“We saw that that was a barrier to people finishing their program,” Harvey said. “We’ve had friends who have gone through the program. We know people that work over there, and we just thought it was a great local partnership for doing some strong work.”
That preexisting relationship between the Dawgpatch Bandits and the Recovery Center made them the natural first partner for their new fitness station initiative. After building that first station, Dawgpatch built another across the country in Holtville, California. Harvey said they are fundraising to be able to build two more fitness stations, by biking from Seattle back to Sag Harbor.
Both patients and staff members at the rehabilitation centers praised the initiative, Harvey said, for bringing more funding and resources to underfunded facilities and providing an outdoor space for patients to get outside.
“These guys, they need something to do when they’re in the program,” Harvey said. “They want to sweat, they want to work out. These guys are extremely excited to be able to use the equipment, it gets them outside and allows them to tell some of their consultants and counselors that it’s a tool that’s helping them get toward a real recovery.”