CHICAGO — A West Side boxing gym that provides free coaching and academic tutoring to kids and teens was burglarized Monday.
Laptop computers, equipment and the gym’s much needed van were all stolen.
Now they’re asking for help to replace some of the stolen items.
Jamyle Cannon, a former national champion boxer, is the executive director and founder of The Bloc, a youth boxing gym housed in a former church in the 1300 block of North Karlov Avenue.
“We came in and transformed this place from a church into a boxing gym,” he said.
But it’s still a sanctuary.
“You should come here, you should feel safe,” Cannon said. “Kids say this feels like a second home.”
One hundred and twenty kids to be exact. And the gym serves as a community hub in West Humboldt Park.
“They’re not just coming here for boxing coaching, they’re coming here for academic tutoring,” Cannon said. “We have mentorship. We take them on college trips. … My hope is that the neighborhood sees us where kids can come and be nurtured into their fullest potential.”
Cannon also runs a twice-a-month food pantry and residents say the gym has had undeniable positive impact on the neighborhood.
So, it came a shock to neighbor Dwayne Mullen when he saw a broken window while walking his dog early Monday morning.
“I came around and see the plastic on the ground… and I said, ‘Something’s wrong,’” he said. “And I see it’s broken into. That’s when I called Mr. Cannon.”
Cannon became angry as soon as he heard what happened.
“(I am) infuriated with what happened here at the Bloc,” Cannon said. “They took everything they could get their hands on.”
Security video shows two people taking boxes of equipment, computers, credit cards and even the keys to the 2019 12-passenger Ford transit van, which they stole, too.
Everything we do is 100 percent free. We have a philosophy that we need to eliminate barriers to entry. So if you don’t have the stuff to box, we’ll get you the stuff. If you don’t have transportation, we’ll provide transportation. It’s just as easy to sit on your couch. It’s just as easy to be out on the streets. We want it to be easier to be here.Jamyle Cannon
While the gym has taken a hit, Cannon is hoping donors will step up and show the community can take a punch and still show these kids that while they’re in this sanctuary, someone’s always in their corner.
“To send a message that, ‘Yes, there are people in this world who will take and take and take, but there are also people who want to do the best they can for the world. And there are more of us than there are of them,’” Cannon said.
The bloc has been around since 2016 but moved to this location just before the pandemic.
They need donations to repair the building, replace the van and the computers, and purchase a more robust security system.
More information on how you can help is available on their website.
Read more Chicago news headlines here.