Boxing Club Donates to Puerto Rico

Spirit of Giving During the Holidays!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. we must remember there are many less fortunate out there who go hungry, suffering without food, clean water or electricity. The recent catastrophic hurricane in Puerto Rico is just one example of how people who have little can be left with virtually nothing. While our bellies are still full with last night’s turkey dinners, there are thousands who go without a meal or a warm house to enjoy the holidays in. And with Christmas and Hanukkah just around the corner, the time to give back is now.

One boxing club in the Southland wanted to help in any way they could. The Burbank Boxing Club (BBC) decided to gather funds, buying over $350 in much-needed supplies and also sent out clothing, shoes and toys to the families left bereft in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The people are still in crisis mode even though the mainstream media has moved on to other disasters and current situations in the news.

BBC Founder and Head Coach Steve Harpst explains why his club decided to pitch in and reach out to others. “Several of the boxing club members mentioned they wanted to first help people in Houston and in time the focus then shifted to Puerto Rico,” the SoCal coach comments.

It can be expensive to ship items to the island which is in dire straits after this tragedy.

“Everybody did their part but there are also some pivotal members that really made a huge difference,” he adds, “like Guenevere, Amy, Minette, Oscar, and the Ford family, who are all instrumental in this outreach to Puerto Rico.”

And it was a family affair. Oscar Portillo Jr.’s young daughter was inspired to help out. “When the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, my daughter Dellilah saw that people needed help so she wanted to do something. If I can be completely honest, she actually motivated me to also do something because I remember I was
taking a shower to go to the boxing gym and when I got out i saw that she was in my room with a roll of Bounty wipes tearing off little pieces and putting them in
Ziploc bags and writing “Puerto Rico” on them.

“I thought if an 8-year-old can do this and show love and compassion to people she doesn’t even know, we ,as adults, can and must do the same thing. We adults can learn a thing or two from children! It’s all about helping those less fortunate. And as a team it’s all about showing compassion to others and helping those who really need it. ”

The enthusiasm and generosity picked up steam. The empathy for those suffering gained momentum and the combined efforts of the BBC team continued to expand.

It was a team mom, Guenevere McHugh (co-owner of the Double-O Salon in Eagle Rock), who first thought of helping Houston with Puerto Rico then being added in the fundraising campaign. “It seemed right to do this for Will. So we organized it and raised money to ship the boxes,” she says. “It feels good that we did our part–everybody here did their part. Everyone was very generous!”

Club member Minette Coye added her sentiments about the BBC’s refief efforts: “I was so impressed how our team pitched in to donate to the Puerto Rican families. We surpassed what anyone expected. To know the family we were donating to was amazing. Will was so grateful; it really hit home how we could help.”

The donations were sent to a boxing club member’s family in Puerto Rico. Will Escalera has lots of family and friends who need any assistance (large or small) they can get while fighting to get back to daily living on this island that Mother Nature wreaked havoc.

“We have helped the Escalera family and the Santiago family in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The town is called Victor Rojas Arecibo,” Will relays. “I’ve been very pleased with all the people that came through to help from the boxing gym. I personally thank Steve Harpst for the caring of your heart to help out a longtime friend and you’re a brother to me.”

Harpst and Escalera first met in 1995 when they were teammates on a baseball team. Will’s young son is a gifted athlete and has also trained with Coach Steve as well.

The spirit of giving was a knockout one from the crew at the Burbank Boxing Club. Everyone pitched in. In fact, the very first person to donate was a little boy. Coach Harpst explains, “I bought some sturdy cartons to build our donation box for supplies. And the very first donation was from a nine year old! On his own, little Chris donated some new hair gel he had brought from home.”

And from there, it was a one-two punch as the money and supplies kept rolling in for several weeks. What started with one box grew to several large cartons to ship over to the territory.

Will Escalera kept in touch with his Puerto Rican relatives (Jose Escalera Morales and Evelyn Escalera Morales) to find out their specific needs. The basic essential things were like fresh batteries, flashlights, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. They couldn’t send food as deliveries were slow and spoilage was rampant. So dry goods were the best option as their mission continued.

Thinking of teens and kids in need, another family of five also donated in a big way. Sean and Lea Ford offered to donate clothes, shoes, sports equipment, backpacks, toys, stuffed animals, pillows, beauty supplies, cosmetics, tote bags and more so that the less fortunate could have more. The BBC’s Maya Roseman helped to pick up several extra large boxes and countless bags filled to the brim with items to help ease the hurricane victims’ needs. The Fords have three young children of their own and are also the brand new co-owners of the Hot and Spicy Kabob Grill in the Brea Mall. As busy as they are, Lea and Sean took time to gather tons of items that were shipped over to Arebico.

The BBC squad wants to make sure those living in harsh conditions are not forgotten.

“Boxing is known as a rough sport but it can also show a lot of heart too,” Coach Harpst (winner of the 2017 Best of Burbank Fitness Instructor) sums up. “The heart, compassion and generosity from the BBC is due to the teamwork of everyone involved.”

And with the holidays just around the corner, these supplies will perhaps lift the spirits of the kids, teens and adults suffering in Puerto Rico and maybe help boost their morale if only for a while. A bright colorful stuffed animal may bring a smile to a little boy or girl. A pair of tennis shoes can allow a teen to explore and forget their troubles for a moment. New batteries will let the adults to utilize their devices. Clean clothes could offer comfort to the elderly. And the idea that strangers care about them can offer hope.

“I would like to say thanks again; we really appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts,” Escalara nods. “The struggle keeps on going in Puerto Rico with no electricity, clean water and the flooding in certain areas. But we’re strong and we’ll make it.”

The Escalera family says “¡GRACIAS!” to all their new amigos in Southern California.

Photos courtesy of Steve Harpst/BBC

Michele Chong

Michele Chong

Feature Writer at MyBoxingFans
Michele Chong has been involved in the sport of boxing for over a decade. Her “Chatter Box” column covers a variety of subjects in both professional and amateur boxing, and features exclusive one-on-one interviews, recaps of fight events, shows and tournaments, book/film reviews and much more. Inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008, she is also a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame, Golden State Boxer’s Association and the Burbank Boxing Club. Michele is also involved in many non-profit and charitable organizations.
Michele Chong
Michele Chong

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