What do you get when you mix a hard-core pro-wrestling legend, several fitness vendors and a homeless shelter for veterans? Well, in this case, the start of a great thing.

In April, semi-retired professional wrestler Mick Foley, who wrestled under a number of characters such as Cactus Jack, Dude Love and his most recognized Mankind persona, and New York Times best-selling author, attended the Club Industry East show in New York City in an effort to help The Salvation Army Borden Avenue Veterans Residence (BAVR).

“I became involved with the shelter when I met a homeless vet in New York City that told me about it, and I went over to donate a box of clothes,” says Foley. “While I was visiting them I noticed the rec center had one piece of broken down equipment and decided to give them some I had in my garage from a gym I used to own in Florida.”

The Long Island City, NY-based shelter serves to rehabilitate its 400 residents and return them as productive members of society, and Foley felt that being fit and motivated would help speed the process along.

And attending the Club Industry East show was a way for Foley to speed the process of bringing equipment to the shelter along, as well.

“I received a call asking me if I would work at the Magnum booth — although I'm not sure how anyone could look at me and think fitness,” says Foley with a chuckle. “I figured it would be great if they could donate a piece of equipment to the shelter instead of giving it to me where it would probably end up being a coat rack.”

Bill McCormick, owner of First Choice, the exclusive distributor of Magnum Fitness in the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania territory, and a long-time friend of Foley's, made that call and was more than happy to get the ball rolling for a donation.

“At First Choice we are in the mode of giving back to the community as much as possible, and when I ran it by Magnum, they were more than happy to do it,” says McCormick who facilitated the donation of a Magnum MST 200 to the BAVR. “It might even open the floodgates and get the whole industry involved in giving to good causes.”

And that ball has continued rolling since the show with the likes of Aphelion and Multi-Grip running with it.

Michael Severance, president of Monomyth Pictures Inc. and one of the East Coast distributors for Multi-Grip is donating Multi-Grip equipment and is looking to do more than that.

“I became involved in the Borden Avenue Shelter through my association with Randy Ivey from Aphelion. Randy introduced me to Foley at the Club Industry Show in New York City,” Severance says. “I am donating two sets of Multi-Grip handles, and I discussed at the show how my production company could offer some of our services for documenting and capturing these events.

“In my tiny way I wanted to be of help and share whatever I could with this respected group of men and women donating their time and energy,” continues Severance. “I appreciate and understand the benefits of exercise. This event along with this generous and selfless group has inspired me to see what I may be able to offer.”

Aphelion has backed up its talk with donations of its own as Vice President Bill Nichtberger and Ivey donated a Pennimizer Orbitron balance board, video and workout program to the shelter

“Having been acquainted with Mick Foley for a number of years and knowing that he is one of the most giving of celebrities, it was our privilege to be a part of this worthwhile charity,” Ivey says. “I would encourage others to assist however they can and remember that it's not always about the money.”

Foley also hopes that others will donate equipment to the BAVR as well as other needy institutions.

“If I could donate a few pieces of equipment and manufacturers and gyms could donate to places like this it can make a difference in people's lives,” Foley says.

“It would be great if in a year we could look back and see the difference we have made to the shelter and the people who have passed through it.”

For those who are interested in donating to this cause or getting involved in their communities, please contact John Agoglia, editor-in-chief of Club Industry, at jagoglia@primediabusiness.com.

Soldiers of Misfortune

According to its Web site, The Salvation Army Borden Avenue Veterans Residence (BAVR) is a program shelter specifically for homeless veterans located in Long Island City, NY. It is operated and managed by The Salvation Army of Greater New York under contract to the New York City Department of Homeless Services. BAVR operates 24 hours, seven days a week and accommodates 410 men and has a service staff of 117.

The roots of BAVR can be traced to a report released by the City of New York Comptroller's Office in 1982 entitled, “Soldiers of Misfortune.” It stressed the critical need for the federal government, specifically the Veterans Administration (now, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs), to develop an outreach and information program to these men and women. For many, the idea of helping homeless veterans seemed logical, but initially there was strong opposition.

City leaders did not agree that there was a need for specialized services for veterans, that veterans were just another group among the growing homeless population and no one knew exactly how many were in the population.

After a long, hard campaign that first saw specialized services for veterans introduced on-site at the shelters, a dedicated shelter for veterans was approved on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1987. The Salvation Army Borden Avenue Residence celebrated its opening.

Services provided at the shelter include:

  • Comprehensive social service case management
  • Pre-employment, employment and post-employment services
  • Clean & sober club
  • Financial management
  • Housing referral, relocation assistance and housing specialist
  • Individual counseling
  • Recreational activities
  • Sobriety support services (AA/NA meetings)
  • Chaplain services