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‘OPERATION AMRAP’: CrossFit Fort Walton Beach hosts first community event to benefit local animal shelter

CrossFit Fort Walton Beach, the area’s newest CrossFit gym, is hosting their inaugural event called “Operation AMRAP” on Saturday, June 15, 2024, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event […]

David and Melissa Bowell, owners of CrossFit Fort Walton Beach

CrossFit Fort Walton Beach, the area’s newest CrossFit gym, is hosting their inaugural event called “Operation AMRAP” on Saturday, June 15, 2024, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event aims to benefit the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Fort Walton Beach.

Owners David and Melissa Bowell, both natives of the Fort Walton Beach area, decided to combine their passions for fitness and animal welfare in this unique event. 

  • David, a law enforcement officer, and Melissa, the principal at Meigs Middle School in Shalimar, Florida, wanted to involve the community and raise awareness about the number of rescues at PAWS.

Throughout the day, participants can engage in various workouts, including “Deadlift for Dogs,” where a $5 buy-in will go directly to PAWS. Attendees will have 60 seconds to complete as many reps as possible, with weights set at 95 pounds for women and 135 pounds for men. Later in the day, the CrossFit fitness test will be held, consisting of a 500-meter row, 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, and 10 pull-ups, with scaling options available.

PAWS will be present at the event with several dogs, including some older ones, in hopes of finding them forever homes. BTS Canines will also be on-site to discuss dog training and their services. The event will feature a food truck, Smoke and Whiskey, offering barbecue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • CrossFit Fort Walton Beach will also be selling t-shirts with all the proceeds go to PAWS. The shirts are $30 each and can be pre-ordered and picked up at Operation AMRAP. A limited number will also be sold the day of the event.

For the Bowells, supporting an organization like PAWS is deeply personal. “We have two rescues,” Melissa shared. “PAWS has over 200 dogs in their facility right now, and they’re desperate for fosters. It just breaks my heart because those animals need love.”

The couple believes that fitness and animal companionship are essential factors in living a healthy life. 

  • “Animals need it, but as you get older, you need to do something for your fitness and wellness. Having a dog is a protective factor too,” David explained. “Studies have shown that dog owners walk at least 3,000 more steps than people who don’t own animals.”

David Bowell, a 27-year veteran of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, discovered CrossFit around 2010 and fell in love with the camaraderie and community aspect. After retiring from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in January 2024, he decided to open his own CrossFit gym to recreate that sense of belonging and help people stay healthy and active as they age.

“Maybe you used to be an athlete, are getting older, and need to stay in shape to enjoy retirement,” David said, explaining his target audience. “So you’re in your thirties, forties, or fifties, and you want to find a way to get back to being healthy and have good movement so you can enjoy your retirement, spend time with loved ones, travel, raise grandkids, and do whatever it is you want to do.”

The Bowells emphasize the importance of scaling workouts to meet individual needs and abilities. 

  • “We take these workouts that are written for the most fit person and scale down,” Melissa explained. “You start at a benchmark and scaffold down. Then, you’re doing the same workout.”

CrossFit Fort Walton Beach offers classes Monday through Saturday, with the potential for Sunday classes based on client needs. New members are required to go through a foundations program, which includes lessons on CrossFit movements, terminology, and etiquette. This approach allows individuals to feel comfortable and confident when joining regular classes.

“Most CrossFit gyms do a form of that, whether they call it foundations or on-ramp,” David said. “It’s for that person who hears about CrossFit but they’re scared to walk in the door or pick up the phone. We create a relationship, not just as a coach and client, but person-to-person, so we get to know each other.”

CrossFit Fort Walton Beach is located at 726 Beal Pkwy Building 3, Fort Walton Beach. For more information, visit their website at

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