Free time for Millikan High School student Aiden Gossage meant working out. Whether it was with his friends, at home or at the gym, everyone knew that the most likely place to find Gossage was somewhere he could be physically active.

His love for fitness inspired him to pursue bodybuilding, and he was interested in becoming a fitness influencer, his family said. But before he could realize his dreams, Gossage was hit and killed by a suspected negligent driver while walking home in 2021. He was only 16.

Last month a new gym near Millikan High School announced it would create a special membership program in honor of Gossage, and on Sunday, friends, family and fellow students filtered into Anytime Fitness to induct the first honorees of the program.

Seventeen high school and college students had been selected. Many of them were close friends with Gossage who would hang out with him while he was working at Fitness 19, which closed but recently reopened as Anytime Fitness under new ownership.

The 17 Aiden Tai Gossage gym membership recipients pose for a photo with Gossage’s family, Anytime Fitness gym owners and Councilmember Daryl Supernaw on Sunday, Oct. 29. Photo by Cheantay Jensen.

“I guess it’s a little unreal,” said Xaveon Tauta, 19, who was friends with Gossage and would often stay with his friend until one or two in the morning to help him close the former Fitness 19 gym.

“For a gym to do this in honor of Aiden, especially knowing what happened, it feels nice,” he added.

Anytime Fitness co-owner Anthony Carter credits Aiden Gossage’s brother, Luke, with getting the ball rolling on the new membership. Luke had been walking home from school, he said, when he noticed the gym was reopening.

“He said, ‘Oh my god, someone bought Aiden’s gym,’” Carter explained, “Obviously, he went home and told his mom.”

Aiden’s mother, Lily Gossage, reached out to Carter and his wife, Eileen, and told them how much time Aiden Gossage had spent at Fitness 19, both as an employee and gym member. Together they crafted the idea of a gym membership program that would memorialize Gossage and help local high school and college students gain better access to fitness.

Each party spent $4,000 of personal funds to create a membership that would allow the 16 students to join the gym for $1 and receive their first five months of membership for free. One more person was added to the inaugural group, for a total of 17 students.

The gym intends to honor the program annually, where 16 new students each year will be awarded the membership. The number 16 was chosen for Aiden’s age when he died.

District 4 Councilmember Daryl Supernaw, who was in attendance, also pledged that his office would help fund the new program where applicable.

Lily Gossage, Aiden’s mother, smiles with some of the recipients of the new Aiden Tai Gossage gym membership program at Anytime Fitness Sunday, Oct. 29. Photo by Cheantay Jensen.

As the group of students gathered for photos and speeches, Lily Gossage reminded the recipients of the pledge they took when they agreed to receive the honor: They were not to drink and drive, do drugs or speed. Prosecutors said that the driver who killed Gossage had been speeding and was likely under the influence—although that charge has since been dismissed as the case winds its way toward trial.

Lily produced one last memento of her son as the celebration was ending. It was a quilt blanket sewn with patches of Aiden’s favorite gym clothes. The patchwork collage was held up alongside photos of Aiden.

“I wanted to do something that he would have been proud of,” Lily Gossage said, with a touch of joy and heartbreak for what she had accomplished.

A piece of the patchwork quilt made with Aiden Gossage’s favorite gym clothes. Photo by Cheantay Jensen.

Students who would like to apply for the Aiden Tai Gossage membership next year must be enrolled at a Long Beach Unified school or Long Beach college and promise to commit to a healthy lifestyle and practice safe driving habits. Anytime Fitness is also extending a special $1 sign-up promotion to any student under 25.