DANVILLE – Nevin Gorki was playing a game of pickup basketball when he was struck with a sudden heart attack. It was just weeks before he was to travel to Florida and start a new job as a physician assistant in cardiac surgery in Sarasota.
He and his wife, who had lived in Danville since 1991, had decided to move south after their last child went off to college. Gorki was 50 years-old at the time, and still active in sports — both playing and coaching. The heart attack blindsided him. He had an emergency stent procedure before making his way to Florida. He was not only recuperating, but doing so in a place where he and his wife did not know anybody and were adjusting to new jobs.
“It was rough in the beginning,” Gorki admits.
But then his wife noticed an advertisement in the community where they lived. It was about a group called F3 — a group for men that combined fitness, fellowship, and faith. Gorki, at that point was medically cleared to be active again, and he began attending the Saturday morning workout sessions. He still had a long way to go in getting his strength back, but the group was always there for him.
“They were so encouraging,” he said. “Being a part of F3 was like being a part of a sports team again, a close-knit team. All of that stuff really helped me at the time that I needed it.”
After about a year in Florida, Gorki and his wife returned to Danville. He began leading a men’s group at his church. Missing the experiences he had with F3, and needing to get back in shape, he realized that many other men in the area could benefit from it, too. F3 Susquehanna Valley was born in 2020.
“I’ve lost a bunch of weight,” Gorki said. “I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time, and we’ve helped a whole lot of guys in the process.”
Gorki serves as the “nantan” of the group, an Apache word meaning leader. As part of the F3 culture, each guy who participates receives a nickname. Gorki’s is appropriately “Defib.”
The original group was formed with five men. The first workout drew 14 men, ages 16 to late 50s. Today, they also have a member in his 70s, who has been dubbed “Legend.” They started the group with just one workout on Saturday mornings, meeting at the old football field behind the Danville Middle School. Today, the group offers workouts every morning Monday through Saturday at varied locations around Danville. The men are encouraged to take turns leading the workouts, serving as a “Q” (military term for a leader), which may be just running or more bootcamp style activities. Men can participate as much or as little as they want.
While the group may begin with fitness, it certainly does not end there. Gorki describes fitness as the magnet that draws men in, and fellowship as the glue that keeps them together and growing as encouragers and friends. The final “F”, “faith”, is not confined to any one religion, but rather, he said, “It is defined as believing in something bigger than yourself.” The faith aspect has also been the force behind much community outreach. Gorki said fitness often leads to confidence, and out of that confidence men are stronger to support one another and reach out to help others.
“All over the country, F3 men have been doing incredible work for their communities,” Gorki said. That includes building playgrounds, developing scholarship funds, and more.
In addition, some guys in the groups decide to go beyond their workouts and get together to study a book or do a Bible study together, or simply just get together to talk.
Each F3 group is free to run their programs however they wish. The only requirement is that the groups follow the organization’s five core principles: that the groups be free, without any sort of signup or commitments required; open to all men of any fitness level, age, or background; is peer-led; workouts are always held outdoors; and they always end in a “circle of trust”.
Gorki said opportunities for the men to lead the workout groups has spilled out into other spheres of life. “They take principles learned there and apply it to their lives as husbands, fathers, in the workplace and in the community,” he said.
Locally, the F3 men have found various ways to serve, including helping older folks move furniture, and cleaning up the riverbanks in Danville. They did a Santa Project around Christmastime and in July, during a Saturday morning workout, the men went around town and bought gift cards at the various downtown stores, placed them in Christmas cards, and then delivered them to families living in the lower socioeconomic areas of town.
They are also planning a canned good drive, tentatively on Nov. 12. The drive will involve the men again running around town with backpacks and collecting canned goods to give to those in need. In addition, Gorki has been personal witness to the group leading to men gaining better health, overcoming addictions, and finding hope and purpose. Some have struggled with depression, and were even considering suicide.
“There’s an epidemic of loneliness for guys,” Gorki said. “The amount of men with no close friends has quintupled.”
The F3 organization has dubbed this epidemic “Sad Clown Syndrome,” men walking around laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside.
“Men need other men to talk to, to confide in, to develop mentoring relationships with,” Gorki said. By starting these workouts, F3 realized they were “treating something they didn’t know existed.”
Gorki has gotten to know many of the men’s success stories even better in a podcast he hosts, called High Impact Man.
Gorki is supported in F3 Susquehanna Valley by a shared leadership team, including Troy Klinger — who also happens to co-host the podcast with him.
Klinger, 49, (a.k.a. Dial Up) serves as the 1st F Q, which means he is in charge of overseeing the fitness aspect of the region’s group. Though in IT work now, Klinger’s background in exercise physiology prepared him well for this role. He was also a competitive runner when he was younger, completing 13 marathons — including the Boston Marathon in 1993. When he had kids, however, his personal fitness took a backseat, he said, to coaching his kids’ sports times and raising his family. He gained weight, his blood pressure was reaching an unhealthy level, and he was overall “just unhappy with how I looked and felt.” When he heard of F3, he was attracted to the accountability it offered to motivate him to get back in shape.
“It was like going back to your younger days of being on a sports team where you helped encourage and push each other to accomplish something challenging,” he said. “In this case it was pushing each other to complete a tough workout. There is just something special about that bond that forms when you work together doing something difficult.”
He also liked that the group was open to all men, whatever their age or fitness levels.
“To have that challenge of keeping up with the younger or really fit guys while also supporting and encouraging the less fit guys is just so rewarding on many levels,” he said.
Klinger has lost 30 pounds since getting involved with F3 and said he is close to being in the best overall shape of his life, when factoring in his age. He still appreciates the accountability he finds from the other guys in the group, and is regularly encouraged to see the victory that so many men are finding in their lives.
Gorki said they are hoping to expand, and he would like to see more groups formed in other towns throughout the region.
For more information, visit the F3 Susquehanna Valley facebook page and any one who is interested can also contact Gorki at 570-594-3768.
F3 groups are found throughout the world and they have been regularly increasing in number. The latest number on the organization’s website was 3,458 groups in 282 regions.
For information on the wider organization, visithttps://f3nation.com.