OrangeTheory Fitness Coach Accused of Pocketing Money Raised for Portland Nonprofits

Ryan Tong, 41, has been suspended by the fitness chain pending an investigation.

Orangetheory Fitness in Slabtown. (Lucas Manfield)

The top instructor at a Northwest Portland fitness studio has been suspended amid allegations that he pocketed money earmarked for local charities.

For years, Ryan Tong, who goes by “Coach RyRy” at Orangetheory Fitness Slabtown, has been soliciting donations to local nonprofits through Venmo during special 90-minute charity classes on Sundays. The donations, Tong said, would be matched by local companies like Nike and Adidas.

But several of the nonprofits, which were selected by studio members, tell WW they haven’t received the cash. Executives at Rose Haven and PERIOD confirmed they hadn’t gotten money from Tong for charity events held at Orangetheory in recent years.

It’s not clear how much money is unaccounted for. According to a January post on the studio’s Instagram account, Tong has raised over $500,000 for charities since he opened the studio in May 2018.

Not all of that money went through Tong. The studio also gave participants in the charity events the option to donate directly to the charity through a QR code linking to the charity’s website.

Still, many participants sent money via Venmo directly to Tong, 41, with the expectation it would later be donated to the nonprofit with a corporate match. Tong’s Venmo account, which is public, lists over 100 transactions in the past year with captions indicating they were meant as donations.

“It was so brazen, it was hard to register anything untoward was going on,” says studio member Daniel Borgen. “Looking back, everybody was like: ‘What were we thinking?’”

Earlier this year, Borgen began asking questions. He’s on the board of Cascade AIDS Project, one of the nonprofits selected by studio members to receive their donations. When Borgen learned the nonprofit hadn’t received any donations from Tong or Orangetheory, he began asking around. Eight other nonprofits were missing money too, he said.

Borgen confronted Tong, who said in an email that the donations should have come through Nike. So Borgen went to Nike, which said it only matched donations from employees. Nike confirmed this in an email to WW, and said it was conducting its own investigation into the matter.

On April 15, Borgen reported the missing money to the police. The case remains open, a Portland Police Bureau spokesperson says, although a detective has yet to be assigned to investigate.

Tong has not returned WW’s calls. In a statement, a regional manager said that Tong had been suspended without pay and the franchise is “cooperating fully with law enforcement.” The last class taught by “RyRy” at the Slabtown Orangetheory was on April 14, according to the studio’s online calendar.

“Once our investigation concludes, we will turn our focus to making the situation right for impacted members,” said the regional manager, Jordan Thomas.

In the meantime, it’s not clear who has the money.

Katie O’Brien, executive director at Rose Haven, a women’s day shelter, said she was contacted by a donor who said she’d given $1,000 to Tong in March of last year expecting it to be donated to the nonprofit. “It feels to me like it’s been stolen,” O’Brien said. “It’s been 15 months—that’s not an appropriate way to get a match.”

Dara Wilk, development director of PERIOD, which distributes free menstrual products, says the organization did not receive any money from Tong for charity events held in 2022 and 2023. Tong did send her $537 using Venmo for an event in 2021, “which I had to ask for,” she tells WW.

In 2005, Tong was convicted of first-degree theft in Clackamas County, sentenced to two years’ probation, and ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution to Safeway.

A spokesperson for the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office said the case was so old that records detailing the crime weren’t immediately available, but it appears likely that Tong was working for the grocer at the time. One of the conditions for Tong’s probation was that he not seek any employment handling money.

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