Special to the Morning Star
Wrought of a plywood frame and aged metal, it hangs above the southern wall and casts its symbolic gaze across the sea of equipment and faces hard at work.
It’s an iron heart – a symbol of the unity between physical and mental strength – and it’s already raised an estimated $4,000 for the North Okanagan Hospice Society.
“Hospice is so important,” said Richard Chippendale, owner of Vernon’s Iron Heart Gym after recounting a personal story of how NOHS impacted his life. “We felt good about doing a fundraiser for that cause.”
Chippendale, a former carpenter, and Dave MacDonald, a power engineer at Tolko, constructed the mammoth work of art over three weeks before it was placed in its permanent home adjacent the gym’s front counter.
“Own a piece of Iron Heart for Hospice, was the idea behind it,” said Chippendale.
Donors purchase space upon the iron heart in which their name will be placed. Proceeds go towards the North Okanagan Hospice Society and the 2019 Dancing With the Vernon Stars slated for Saturday, Sept. 27.
Chippendale said that space has been selling fast with nearly half of the heart already claimed. Should the heart be filled, Chippendale estimated total fundraising of $15,000.
“We always wanted to have an iron heart here,” Chippendale said. “It’s what we stand for.”
Iron Heart gym started eight years ago as Iron Heart Personal Training and boot camps where Richard’s wife, Genny, gained popularity with her enthusiasm, passion and skills in creating workouts that proved to people that exercise could be an enjoyable and uplifting experience that benefited them not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. This message resonated. And, when Iron Heart’s doors opened four and a half years ago, it too has grown stronger every day.
An ornate front counter acts as a gateway to the large, open-concept facility. Organized and laid out thoughtfully, the gym has a steady flow as smiling and determined patrons weave their way through.
“We keep it friendly. We want people coming here because they’re comfortable and feel welcomed,” Chippendale said as he toured the facility. “They love feeling the stress release, sense of accomplishment and connection with the other people here.”
That combination of the mental and physical is what having an iron heart is about, Chippendale said.
“It’s a powerful message.”
And that message is one that Chippendale and MacDonald hope to convey in this year’s Dancing with the Vernon Stars. However, this won’t be your average performance, Chippendale said.
“We’re going to shock them,” Chippendale laughed.
Drawing from his days as a competitive dancer, instructor and original member of Vernon’s own Beat Freaks, Chippendale teamed up with MacDonald to put on a break dancing spectacle.
“My wife keeps telling me that I’m going to be a broke dancer, not a breakdancer,” Chippendale laughed.
Beyond the dance itself, Chippendale said the community support he, Genny and MacDonald have seen for NOHS and the iron heart fundraiser is inspiring.
“It’s going to have more power than we ever imagined,” Chippendale said. “It’s going to have peoples’ hearts behind it. They’re going to be on our wall for life.”
For more information or to donate, call Iron Heart Gym at 778-475-3539.
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