Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Fund-raising efforts under way for Olympian

Capitol Heights resident scheduled to fight in 2008 Beijing games

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Fund-raising efforts are under way to assist the family of U.S. Olympic boxer Gary Russell Jr. of Capitol Heights travel to Beijing later this year for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Russell, who late last year qualified for the Olympics, is a bantam weight (119 pounds) who has been one of the top-rated amateurs in the world for the last four years.

In December, Capital Sports Complex in Forestville held an event during which it announced the creation of ‘‘Gary’s Corner,” a wing of the facility where Russell can train when he is in the area. At that same ceremony, Russell was presented with proclamations from a number of local and state officials.

Russell is currently residing with the Olympic Boxing Team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He is next slated to be in action on Feb. 15 when the Olympic Team travels to Russia for a dual meet.

Russell’s father and trainer Gary Russell Sr. is pleased with how the fund-raising efforts have gone so far.

‘‘It’s a truly anticipated time,” Gary Sr. said. ‘‘We always expected for the time to come for him to make it to the Olympics. I’m real confident about the people that’s in our circle.”

Russell family spokesperson Lashaun Yates, the assistant director of program development of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, said the family is far from its target, an estimated $30,000. But Yates said she is confident about the chances of reaching that goal.

‘‘The process is going very well,” she said. ‘‘Everybody is very excited to know that there’s someone here in the community that is representing this area. We have raised about $3,000 so far. It’s a huge financial commitment. We’re definitely trying to send his parents and if we can get more we would like to send [Gary Jr.’s brother] Allan [Russell].”

Yates said that the family has in mind three fundraising functions. Plans are tentatively in place for a black-tie event to be held in April at Zanzibar nightclub in the District. There also are plans to have a function at the Upper Marlboro estate of former state senator Tommy Broadwater in June. The last function has yet to be determined. Gary Sr. said the family and associates will have a meeting Saturday to mull over the specifics of the functions.

Yates said the YMCA has designated Gary Jr. the public spokesperson for the organization’s Physically Healthy and Driven (PHD) program, designed to work with families and children to combat obesity.

‘‘My passion of getting the family to Beijing is something I’m really working hard at,” Yates said. ‘‘Just knowing that the community is interested in the support of a local athlete is great. We’re just going to keep praying that we can make it happen.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.