The WOD for Ret In My Own Words

By Craig Hysell

“When we started this band all we needed, needed was a laugh. Year’s gone by, I say we’ve kicked some ass.” -Motley Crue


When I began CrossFit Hilton Head in 2010, I set out with a mission: to “make everything outside the box better”. Fitness would be the discipline by which my gym would strive to do this and I firmly believe that, when pursued diligently and utilized correctly, “what we do in here, makes everything better out there.” But words are nothing without action. You will always be what you do, so you’d better be damn sure what you say and what you do are the same. This goes for me as well. This takes commitment, awareness and the seizing of opportunities.

The WOD for Ret celebrates the life of Ret Thomas. I never knew Ret. He died when he was 15 from Ewing Sarcoma in April, 2000. I did not get to meet this very amazing, very quality gentleman. I feel cheated. In truth, sometimes I feel angry.

I met Rich Thomas, Ret’s father, in 2009 while coaching high school lacrosse. I liked Rich immediately. He lived in an honest fashion with nothing to prove. The older I get, the more I realize how rare this is with most adults. It is only people that have really “been there” that usually conduct themselves in this way. Rich is a Vietnam Veteran, he has been there and back more than I will ever know.

I met Suzanne, Ret’s mom, after meeting Rich. She is the most fun, most in your face, most over the top, most down to earth woman I have ever met. She cracks me up, calls me out and supports me at every turn. She’s been there and back as well, many times over. You must understand, these are two very great, very loving, very foot in your ass when you need/deserve it people. My kind of people. They remind me very much of my mother and my father. Indeed, Suzanne is loving referred to as “Mama T”.

Suzanne & Ret from CrossFit Hilton Head on Vimeo.

During the summer of 2010, Suzanne told us about the RET 5k they host in Sea Pines on Labor Day weekend to raise money for their son’s foundation. That is when I first learned of Ret. I was a brand new dad at the time and my heart nearly burst with grief. I pictured, quite vividly, going through that with my child and I could not bear the thought, could not fathom the strength in took Ret, his two sisters, Jen and Katie, and the rest of the family to get through such hell. And then I thought of all the other families going through this terrible thing. We had to do something. This was our opportunity to start giving back! Indeed, “Give Back” was Ret’s last wish!

We designed a hero workout centered around Ret’s life within the 5k. 15 reps for each year of Ret’s life. Deadlifts to bear the burden. Pushups and Burpees to remind you to get up every time you are on the ground, no matter how hard. Run because that’s what athletes do. And Ret was a monster athlete. He would have loved CrossFit.

That first year we had 16 participants. I think we scared the shit out of the 5k people. Nobody knew what the hell CrossFit was back then (we were the only one in all of Hilton Head and Bluffton! It was just Teddy out at CF Beaufort and us!) so we looked even wayyy more insane than CrossFitters do now.

The second year we had over 60.

The third year we had over 120.

The fourth year… well, that’s going to be up to you I suppose.

We have been asked over the years to take money (get paid) for our donations of time, gear, logistical handling, question answering, promoting, etc. We have always turned it down. We even come out of pocket on many things. We couldn’t care less. We will continue to do so.

Each dollar the Ret Foundation earns helps a family fighting pediatric cancer. How could we in good conscience take money out of a hopeful family’s pocket because things are “challenging” for us sometimes? That’s unacceptable to me, my wife and my staff. Pure bullshit. We are not challenged. We are honored. Fighting cancer without losing your hope or your soul or your mind is challenging. Remaining noble in the face of your own death at 15 is challenging. Damn near impossible to comprehend. But it’s exactly what Ret did. And there are way too many kids and their families out there that have to try their best to do the same.



Every year we do this and will continue to do so as long as the Thomas family needs us to. And every year we remain humbled, awe-struck and inspired by how many of you show up to support this great cause in the 5k, the WOD and in your volunteer work. Thank you so very, very much. You are amazing people.

For me, personally, at the end of the day, almost every day (sometimes I get home too late and she’s already in bed), I get to hug my daughter tight, cover her with daddy kisses and do my best to be grateful for every little moment as she grows up. I try to do the impossible and catalogue every first moment she has in my mind. And I hope, daily, that I will never have to know what the Thomas family and so many like them have gone through. That is Ret’s gift back to me: appreciation, love, gratitude.

I owe him. “Giving back” is a necessity. He has given me so much.


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