As firefighters sprayed foam on the equipment of the Eastside Boxing Club, their focus would not have lingered on the pair of vintage Reebok boxing shoes lying ruined on the floor. But for Anna Farrant, they represent everything the not-for-profit boxing club lost on Nov. 2.
A two-alarm blaze tore through their two-storey building at the corner of Commercial and Pender, Saturday around 5am. No other buildings were damaged and no injuries were reported.
But the space, which they have occupied since April, has been rendered unstable by smoke and water damage.
The Eastside Boxing Club provides affordable athletic programming to youth at risk in the East Side of Vancouver. Boxing coach David Schuk started the club after Vancouvers historic Astoria Boxing Club shut down in 2012.
A lot of people that box seem to have a colourful past and a lot of life experience its relatable for kids. We all work out together, theres a lot of discipline and a lot of respect. Its not just going in and punching each other; you learn a lot about integrity and mental stamina, says Farrant, a boxer as well, whose day job is community coordinator for Save On Meats.
Nearly 30 kids from the neighbourhood, steered by the Network of Inner City Community Services Society and Urban Native Youth Association, have found their place there. Many actively compete as boxers.
The club recently also launched a womens-only program in conjunction with newSTART for women dealing with violence and abuse.
The group was able to secure the location above Woodland Smokehouse and Commissary thanks in large part to two very successful Aprons for Gloves fundraisers fights featuring the stars of Vancouvers hospitality scene which raised $100,000 for rent and equipment.
We had been gaining so much momentum in the last couple months, she says, ruefully. That gym is built from a community coming together.
Fire investigators are focusing their investigation on the office area of Woodland Smokehouse on the ground floor below the gym.
Woodland Smokehouse was insured. The gym was not, so their equipment is gone.
Were in fight season right now. Its of the utmost importance to us to get back on our feet and provide the programs these kids are relying on.
Farrant was allowed in on the weekend to look for personal belongings, and thats when it truly sank it.
Its so stupid, she says, her voice cracking with emotion. Theyre just this pair of vintage Reebok boxing boots that Ive had since I started. Theyre the ones that I always wore. Ive had them resoled three times. And they were like yeah, she finishes quietly.
Donations can be made by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or clicking here. The club will have a fundraiser Nov. 10 at the Bottleneck bar on Granville.