Cleanup begins at Olympic boxer's gym
On Monday afternoon – a little more than two days after a fire gutted the boxing gym where Olympic medalist Nico Hernandez trains – cleanup efforts were underway.
All of the weightlifting and other equipment had been hauled out of the charred weight room where Northside Boxing Academy’s manager, Emiliano Hernandez, thinks the blaze started.
Outside, building materials and equipment that couldn’t be salvaged filled trash dumpsters and recycling bins.
Hernandez, who is also Nico’s uncle, said it could take a week – maybe longer – to get the building back into shape so boxers can resume their training.
Right now, a lot of them are donning dust masks instead of boxing gloves to help.
But, he said, more volunteers and donations of money and equipment are needed.
“Get a new canvas, get some new (ring) skirts … get some new boards for our ring donated to us,” Hernandez said, ticking off a list of items the gym needs to be functional again. The gym sits on the northwest corner of 19th and Market.
The gym, a nonprofit, trains 30 to 40 neighborhood kids and adults, many of whom have troubled lives.
“If we could do that, I think we could open at least half of it,” Hernandez said. For now, though, “We’re just going day by day,” he said. “Anything would help.”
The gym caught fire and burned Saturday morning. Fire crews received the first 911 call about it at 6:35 a.m.
The fire’s cause was still unknown Monday, authorities said. The building at 1901 N. Market is an old fire station.
“As of right now, nothing has changed. The fire is still under investigation,” Wichita Fire Department investigator Kelly Zane said.
The building itself sustained about $75,000 in damage. Hernandez said another $35,000 to $50,000 in equipment was destroyed, including about $10,000 of recently donated weightlifting and strength training equipment.
Hernandez said that, so far, no cash donations have come in to replace the equipment. But a few local businesses have donated fire restoration services, trash and recycling dumpsters and the plywood that now covers the empty window frames.
And dozens of neighbors and others from as far away as Dodge City have shown up to lend a hand, he said.
“It took this situation to get more support than we thought ever was out there,” Hernandez said. “It’s a good thing.”
How to help
Anyone wanting to help the Northside Boxing Academy financially can call Emiliano Hernandez at 316-308-0035 or Kenny Pedigo at 316-285-3399. More information about the gym is at www.northsideboxingacademy.com and on its Facebook page.