Sobriety Through Fitness | Fitness and Addiction Recovery

About

The Barbell Saves Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with a clear and simple focus, support the well-being of individuals in recovery from substance use through using a community-based exercise program. We believe strongly that by building a strong, positive, sober community around people in recovery, we can increase the overall well-being of every person involved. Engaging in exercise classes can be both cost-prohibitive and intimidating for some, we want to remove those barriers, to bolster success and long-term sobriety. Participants will forge connections with each other and support a sober lifestyle. Peer support and encouragement is a foundation to our approach and is guided by coaches who are also in recovery. Additionally, we will focus on positive nutrition changes for members to further enhance their well-being.

The Barbell Saves Project offers an inclusive environment that celebrates individuals from marginalized and highly stigmatized groups in recovery from substance use disorder. We welcome individuals of all physical ability and body types. We continue to learn, grow, and improve as an organization to be increasingly just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

Executive Directors

Rob Best

Rob Best

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Rob was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He grew up playing baseball and hanging out with his two older brothers. In his 20’s Rob became addicted to opiates and would spiral out of control for the next decade. At 31 years of age he finally got clean and started down a path of sobriety, fitness, and healthy living. Since then, he has owned two CrossFit gyms and has helped countless people both in fitness and in recovery. Now, The Barbell Saves Project allows him to combine those two passions. Rob is happily married and the father to two bright, curious and funny boys. He is excited to see people use fitness and the positive community in the gym to support their quest for sobriety and healthy living.

Lindsey Cantelme

Chief Operating Officer

Lindsey is an instructor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University in addition to her work with The Barbell Saves Project. For over sixteen years, Lindsey has worked in a variety of social work settings, finding the greatest joy in both teaching new social work students and supporting those in recovery move forward in a healthy life. Functional fitness and community connection are key areas of interest. Lindsey loves to travel abroad or across the US and has seen fitness as an integral, positive aspect of her life for many years. Lindsey is a proud mom to two young boys who steal her sleep and give her great joy.

Coaching Staff

Tammi Saunders

Tammi’s love of fitness began in 2013. After a long hiatus from exercise and healthy things, she began working out in a CrossFit gym a few days a week. At the time, she smoked heavily, was extremely unfit, and wasn’t even sure she was going to stick it out. She shares that back then, she couldn’t do a single pull-up, push-up , or run 200 meters without having to stop. By the end of her first year she was attending class regularly and not only was she getting stronger, faster, and fitter, she was getting mentally tougher. She began to look at life in a different way, she developed a new mindset. She got comfortable being uncomfortable and adopted a “do hard shit” mentality, which translated into every area of her life. In 2018 Tammi took her passion for fitness full circle and became a CrossFit Level-1 trainer. She has never forgotten what it’s like to be new, unsure, and apprehensive, and she has a knack for making people feel welcome and at ease. Tammi is extra good at “aggressively encouraging” everyone. Tammi has experience as a high school life coach, working with at risk students, and a domestic violence victims advocate. In both roles Tammi developed and crafted her ability to build relationships, connect clients to resources and to help clients learn to advocate for themselves . Building trust through compassion and a natural empathetic way, and connecting with others is her strong suit. If you see Tammi outside the gym she is most likely looking for the best protein pancakes in the valley.

Eric Hagg

Born and raised right here in the great hot state of Arizona, Eric started his coaching career in 2014. Eric states “I coach because I love movement, all kinds of movement, and I can’t stop moving. I coach because I love helping people learn the right movements. I coach because I love to connect with people, I hope I learn from them and they learn from me.” He enjoys coaching for The Barbell Saves Project to help people connect the mind and body together with the community to bring forth healing from addiction. He loves to hang out with his three children and help them explore, navigate, and learn in this big world. In his free time away from kids, Eric enjoys going bowling, reading, and outdoor activities.

David Perez

David was born and raised in Long Island, New York. He grew up with a loving family who were supportive of one another. As a young teenager he became addicted to opiates along with drinking, and soon enough gang activity. Over the years he had ups and downs but his life eventually came crashing down and he hit a rock bottom. By then, he was a father to a six-year-old girl and was not able to feed himself, let alone take care of her. At the age of 29 he decided to check into rehab and get his life together. Since then, he has and continues to work hard in many aspects, especially to have an amazing relationship with his family and most importantly his daughter. Fitness and recovery have been a major part of his life, he believes “the two go hand and hand and have been my saving grace”. David said “when I found the Barbell Saves Project, I knew instantly this was my new home. Between helping others and having the opportunity to share my passion with others in sobriety, I’m excited to see where Barbells takes us in this journey.

Board Members

Natasha Mendoza, PhD, MSW

President

Natasha Mendoza is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. She earned her doctorate in social work at The Ohio State University and completed her postdoctoral training at the University at Buffalo Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions in New York. Dr. Mendoza’s scholarship is focused on substance use, co-occurring disorders, and connecting service systems (i.e., treatment, crisis response, health care, criminal justice, and child welfare).  Additionally, Dr. Mendoza’s work as a researcher and educator serves to explore and elucidate the ways in which identity and wellness may be assets in behavioral health. The foundation of her scholarship is built on the premise that behavior change is a function of interpersonal relationships, occurring within the context of culture and across multiple systems.

John Koch

John Koch

Vice President

John Koch is the Director of Community Engagement at Community Medical Services and serves as the Vice President on the board of directors for Barbell Saves. Mr. Koch leads Community Medical Services (CMS) national business development efforts and is also an
advocate of those experiencing substance use disorder at a government level. Since starting with CMS, John has helped work with a team to open forty-nine opioid treatment programs nationwide, as well as opening the first 24/7 opioid treatment program in the United States.

John is an alumni of Arizona’s Valley Leadership program, which helps lead the change on pressing issues such as health and education. He also volunteers his time dispensing the life saving medication naloxone to those experiencing homelessness throughout Phoenix.

Hayley Avino, DNP, FNP-C, CF-L1

Secretary

Dr. Hayley Avino is a Doctor of Nursing Practice Family Nurse Practitioner (Arizona State University class of 2021), American Academy of Anti Aging Functional Medicine Fellow, seasoned Registered Nurse, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Dr. Avino carries diverse professional, critical care, and leadership experience having worked as an RN for nearly a decade in Emergency Rooms throughout the country including a medical mission to Haiti prior to becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

While obtaining her doctoral degree, Hayley was awarded ASU’s Doctor of Nursing class of 2021 Outstanding Scholar Award, ASU Health Innovation Exhibition Winner in Fall 2020, acted as a student leader, mentor for others, and participated in the Arizona AHEC COVID Scholars Program. Dr. Avino challenges current practice to advocate for a holistic change to enhance patient outcomes as well as preventative, innovative, and sustainable health efforts for the communities she serves. Hayley’s personal and professional story related to substance use disorder were weaved together through several media releases including The Morning Chalk Up, ASU News, Yahoo, and more. Dr. Avino was a featured guest on several blogs, podcasts, and The Herren Project Live show, a conversational platform that focuses on addiction, recovery, wellness, prevention, and education. Hayley was a podium presenter at the Association for Teaching, Prevention, and Research virtual healthcare conference on March 9, 2021 in conjunction with her doctoral dissertation, The D.R.E.A.M.E.R. Project.

Currently, Dr. Avino practices Functional Medicine in Scottsdale, AZ. Additionally, she serves as Secretary Board Member of The Barbell Saves Project and is an auditor of an ongoing research study surrounding the impact of CrossFit on long-term recovery from substance use disorder.

Robert Grant

Treasurer

Robert Grant, a former Senior Finance Executive at The Boeing Company, retired in 2020 after a 34 year career spanning Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), and Boeing Defense and Space Divisions and programs including Helicopters, Tilt Rotors, Fighter Airplanes and Test and Evaluation activities. Grant’s last assignment was Vice President & CFO of Manufacturing/Safety and Quality, and BCA Affordability. Prior to that assignment Grant was Vice President/CFO of Commercial Airplane Programs at BCA.

Grant holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music with a business minor from the University of Miami, and an MBA in Finance from Drexel University. Grant is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

Tony Roy

Tony Roy works in Customer Success at Reputation where they help brands forge strong relationships between their customers and communities by focusing on collecting, analyzing, and acting on feedback to fuel constant progress. After receiving a business degree from the University of Minnesota, a lifelong passion for golf and the outdoors brought Tony to Arizona where he was introduced to functional fitness. Over the past several years, Tony has witnessed the incredible power fitness has to provide healing and recovery to those struggling with substance abuse. His desire to make an impact stems from a passion for health, fitness, personal growth, and the ability to change your mind through your body.

Dan Greenleaf, MA

Dan is a quality manager of outsourced services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. For the past seventeen years, Dan has provided direct service, served as the National Treatment Network Representative for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the states of Idaho and Arizona, and promoted increased access to care through health plans. He is passionate about helping individuals struggling with mental health and substance use concerns to remove barriers preventing them from living their best life. Based on lived experience, exercise and being supported by healthy people are foundational to his life and well-being. 

Colleen McGreggor

Colleen has devoted her entire professional career to working in the public health and human service space, devoting herself personally and professional to ensuring equity for vulnerable populations and most specifically, those facing mental health and substance use challenges.
With blended and diverse experience across public, non-profit and for-profit sectors, Colleen has seen amazing things achieved through the collective power of people. She is a community engager and mobilizer who gets energized interacting with people, building community capacity, improving community health and being a part of positive social change.
Colleen is passionate about transforming healthcare, building equity and inclusion and harnessing the collective energy within communities to improve overall health and well-being. Finding my own recovery from substance use through strength training and sports conditioning, I am deeply driven to building that individual, family and community capacity to promote and support healthy living through the adoption of an active, healthy lifestyle.

Rebecca Duffy

Rebecca Duffy, LPC

Rebecca Duffy, LPC has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Western Washington University and a Master’s of Science in Counseling from University of Phoenix. Rebecca is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Clinical Manager at EvolvedMD. Rebecca continues to work to best serve the community with focus on integrated health care and behavioral medicine. Rebecca recently graduated from the prestigious American Express Leadership Academy at ASU Lodestar.

In her spare time Rebecca has raised money for Breast Cancer Research by completing the 60 mile walking adventure known as the “3-Day.” She has also completed three full marathons raising money with Team In Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She is originally from Washington state and still considers the Seattle area her “home”. Rebecca loves to spend spare time with her daughter and friends, and enjoys cooking and reading.

Kim Despres, DHA, RN

Dr. Kim Despres is Chief Executive Officer of the dynamic nonprofit organization, Circle the City. Circle the City provides innovative healthcare solutions to men, women and children facing homelessness in Maricopa County, Arizona. Dr. Despres oversees the operation of Circle the City’s two recuperative care respite centers, two outpatient healthcare centers, and a fleet of mobile medical units that provide care throughout the county. Circle the City serves approximately 8,000 people a year. Currently in its 10th year of operation, Dr. Despres has led the organization through tremendous growth and the expansion of its service lines.

Dr. Despres brings over 37 years of diversified experience in healthcare practice, management and leadership. Her background includes nursing leadership and operations, including nonprofit, acute care nursing, home health, infusion therapy, case management, human resources, pharmacy, quality assurance, and physician relations. Dr. Despres works collaboratively with community partners, local health organizations, county, city and state leaders. She is currently serving on the Community Advisory Board for Arizona State University College of Health Sciences. She has served as a speaker/presenter at numerous professional conferences, community events, and is routinely featured in local and national media coverage

Dr. Despres has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Grand Canyon University, a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration, and a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration from the University of Phoenix.