The hardest part of writing about TIT Jam is trying not to write Justin Sheaffer a thank you letter. It’s hard because after having spent the last year getting to know Justin, I really don’t know whether there actually is a difference between the spirit of TIT Jam, and Justin himself. It’s hard because the honesty, financial sacrifice, and integrity that Justin continuously exhibits are unreal. It’s the stuff that bullshit corporate values and mission statements are made of except that it’s right there and it’s real. You can reach out and touch it. You can experience it and even have it for yourself. Most of all it’s hard because he deserves so much more.
TIT Jam is a week-long parkour event that was born in 2011 after Justin had lost his aunt to breast cancer. Since its conception, it has brought athletes from all over America together to raise money and awareness for breast cancer with all of the proceeds benefiting the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
The first thing to know is that TIT Jam changes lives. If I look at my career path, my outlook for the future, and the state of my personal relationships, I can honestly say that TIT Jam has been the sole catalyst for the overwhelming positivity of it all. Coming together to sleep on the ground, get sick and get hailed on, and do backflips that help provide free breast cancer prevention has a profound ability to break down barriers, dispel preconceptions and inspire introspection.
Sitting in a circle at night, you look around into the fire-lit eyes of those with you, and you simply know that every single person there is your family. TIT Jam is the least exclusive clique in the world, it’s a club inhabited by rookies and pros alike, and the only event in our community where the first person to introduce themselves and greet you with a warm hug is more than likely your role model.
TIT Jam is a poignant reminder that as members of the parkour community, we are each important pieces of something much larger and more impactful than ourselves. Sitting on the floor, on the last day of the event, Justin turned to me and gave me a new perspective on something old: As humans, our instinct is to want to be a part of something larger than ourselves. That’s the reason why so often people will come up and ask us to backflip. They’ve never seen anyone move the way we do, and they want to connect with and understand it on some subconscious level. Instead of getting offended and making snide comments, TIT Jam gives us a tool to stand up and say, “Yes, I can do a backflip. Do you want to donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation?” As athletes, it’s incredibly easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of day to day training. It’s important that we all remember not only the reason we began training in the first place but also the huge, sometimes lifesaving ways, that our individual training can positively affect the lives of those around us.
When you get down to it, there are as many different reasons to come to TIT Jam as there are people who have been. As for myself, it serves as a reminder and a memorial. When we gathered together to pay our respects to Jimby, he had more friends at that moment than he ever could have known. TIT Jam is a powerful enough force that a father, who not even a year ago attended the funeral of his own son, stood in front of us and made a contribution that may well save the lives of many others. The thing that makes TIT Jam special is that the community which inspired that act is there for every single one of us, whether we ever need to call on it or not. That community might not be the only thing that keeps me ticking all year long, but it sure as hell helps.
On the third night, a friend came to me and said: “I’m never not coming to this event again.” I never asked why, and I didn’t need to, because if you’re at TIT, then you understand.
In support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation
Photographs © Sean Endres
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