East Bay gym fights back from theft to make Christmas happen for kids

An East Bay boxing gym has fought back from a recent theft to put on a Christmas toy drive that almost never happened.

Several dozen families and kids were gifted food and toys Saturday at a Toy Drive put on by The Lions Den in Pittsburg.

One kid walked away with Hot Wheels.

"I’m going to get a hot wheel track for Christmas, so I wanted this," said Isaiah Guerra.

The toy drive was special because thieves nearly stole it from the community.

On Monday, burglars broke in, leaving a crowbar behind as evidence.

Surveillance video shows thieves taking off with a 50-pound safe they had put inside a garbage can.

Inside that safe was thousands of dollars and gift cards that were meant to be used for a surprise toy giveaway, which had been planned for last Thursday.

For the gym and its supporters, the theft was a punch in the gut.

"For someone to do that to them, it’s heartbreaking," said Grace Martino.

Determined to keep the Toy Drive alive, the gym fought back, using modern methods, a GoFundMe page and news coverage.

Immediately, a flurry of donations started pouring in both toys and more than $10,000, much to the delight of the gym owner who had a personal reason for not giving up.

"I come from a family where there wasn’t always food on the table for us at all times, said Cordell Pearson, owner of The Lion’s Den. "I remember having to stand in these types of lines to get toys when I was little. So, I always thought when I was younger, if I ever got in a position to do the same thing, that’s what I wanted to do."

With the clock ticking and Christmas just days away, a team began picking up toy donations and hitting stores and made the toy drive happen.

"It’s definitely a Christmas miracle.  It’s definitely a Christmas miracle.  We have so many people who are supporting right now," said Lakesha Smith, a volunteer.

The Davis’ from San Pablo were prime examples of that support, giving generously when they heard that the gym needed help.

"We provided a box full of toys and then we brought some more back today, we brought back like three more boxes back today," said Arlita Davis.

"It gives me joy to be able to help the kids during a time of need," said Edward Davis.

The toy drive put a smile on a lot of faces.

For the boxing gym, the theft was a temporary knockdown, not a knockout.

As they teach the kids, when something like that happens, you have to muster up grit and determination to get back up and keep fighting.

They lead by example at The Lion’s Den and plan to do it all again next year.