Gary Ozzello, the mind behind The Fortitude, explains the gospel motivations behind the 10k race.
It’s Faith and Work Week at All Things New. We’ll be exploring how our work connects to God’s work through the inaugural season of the All Things New Podcast. Here on the blog, we’ll be posting excerpts from a handful of the 11 episodes. Today’s segment is from our conversation with Gary Ozzello, Community Outreach and Engagement Director at CSU. It has been edited for readability.
Trevor Sides: What have you learned about the use of power as outreach and engagement director?
Gary Ozzello: I think there’s definitely an opportunity to influence people, for right or for wrong. The decisions we make—are we positive or negative role models? When I came to see you today, Steve Parker’s daughter, Fiona, is out in the front yard playing. Dad, Mom and the other people who enter her life today are going to influence her one way or another. What’s that influence going to be? And for me in my work life, what’s that influence going to be? What are they gonna see? Who are my kids gonna see? Who are the people at CSU gonna see? The God-loving person who connects those dots and helps bring Christ into their lives? Or not that guy? I’m committed to continuing to do that and to bring that to our campus. And for me it’s a conscious decision. I think, Trevor, that people assume power and influence to be negative. Our Lord Jesus Christ had power and he had influence. And so did his detractor and critics. It’s what you choose to do with that. I choose to hopefully use that power and influence to build the kingdom.
Trevor: You like to share that power and influence, and I feel like that’s what connecting the dots is. This is a deep basket here, let’s share it.
Gary: Yes, we can’t ever give it all away. I want to share that, yes, absolutely.
Trevor: So let’s zoom out a little bit. The new stadium. Fortitude. How are those dot-connectors?
Gary: I love Fort Collins. It’s an incredible place to raise my two kids. It’s amazing the opportunities we have here. As the discussion about the stadium was taking place four years ago, I was on my way to my current position. I would lie awake at night and there was that verbal opposition, however small it might be, toward the stadium. But it was also hostile. One of the things I share with people is that I love our community and I love the people in it and I’m passionate about it. I saw our community being fractured by the stadium discussion. And it wasn’t a debate, it was an attack in many ways. And I thought to myself, “What can we do to unify the community and to show that the new stadium is a community gathering place?” And honestly, one night in the middle of the night, which is when I do my best thinking, I thought, “Why not a race like the Bolder Boulder?”
Shortly after that, I contacted Cliff Bosley, the race director of the Bolder Boulder. We met two years ago, but early in the conversations I just sensed that Cliff had a deep belief like I did in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And he did, he’s a believer. We start walking down the road of, “Could this race make sense for Fort Collins?” And everything said yes. And as we met with the city, as we met with CSU administration, it was a yes. In that race, what we wanted to do was unify the community, let the stadium serve as a community gathering place, but also to glorify God with what we did that day and the two days leading up to it for the community of Fort Collins. And that’s how that came to be.
Trevor: You’re the guy behind Fortitude. The air is tingling! I can’t believe I’m breathing these molecules!
Gary: Don’t get caught up. There’s no rarified air. It was God’s fortune and God’s grace, honestly.
Trevor: I’m teasing…
Gary: Trevor, God shined down on me and said we’re gonna make this happen.
Trevor: Yeah, the imagery of a whole bunch of people running into the stadium together, being cheered on, is at the very heart of it, a biblical picture.
Gary: No question. There is no question. And one of the rewarding things for me was the fact there were so many believers in Christ along the way that helped make it happen. Cliff and his entire family, people at CSU that I deal with, people at the city, both staff and city council that I could go to and depend on and sell this idea. Race volunteers, people who ran the race, people who gathered to watch it—and the rewarding thing was to see that come to fruition.