The heartbroken dad of a young Dundee boxer who committed suicide is speaking out for the first time to support a city sports club.
Gary Strachan’s son, also Gary Strachan, died in January 2017, at the age of 34.
Gary senior, 61, has now come forward to talk about the benefits boxing can bring to young people – particularly in dealing with mental health moving out of lockdown.
Gary decided to speak out to try to help raise money for Lochee Boys Boxing Club, which has been forced to turn away youngsters for the first time in its 70-year history.
The club operate from 80-year-old premises, in Wellbank Lane in Lochee and coaches are desperate to try to raise up to £500,000 to expand their building to accommodate more young people.
Gary said: “If it helps the club raise funding to expand so they can take on more young people then I am happy to do anything I can.
“It was at my son’s funeral in early 2017 that I realised that some of his friends were also struggling with their mental health.
“My son was only 34 when he took his own life and although very popular with a huge number of friends, he felt he ‘didn’t want to be here anymore’ – a statement that sadly crossed my path many times in the following two years.”
Gary added that on the day of the funeral two of his son’s friends opened up about their own lives and how they thought losing such a close friend was going to make life unbearable.
He said: “I began to speak to them on a regular basis and invited one, who was battling with alcohol, to my house some weekends where I would purchase box office boxing, and indulge him in talks about his wellbeing, my son and the boxing, of course.
“This worked wonders for him – and also me.”
When his young grandson, Luca Flynn, also wanted to get involved in boxing he took him along to Lochee where he became one of their most enthusiastic, dedicated and successful members.
“There is little doubt that boxing and the discipline and camaraderie of the club is brilliant for young people,” Gary said.
Now 13, Luca Flynn is still a member of the club and is making a name for himself in the boxing world, having been inspired by his Uncle Gary.
Secretary of the boxing club, Brian Howett, said that the club has been inundated with requests to join.
He said: “For the first time in 70 years we have been forced to turn youngsters away and we absolutely don’t want to be in that position.
“We are aware that many young people, boys and girls, are suffering and we want to be in a position to take on as many as possible to help through boxing, training, getting together and using the gym.”
He said they had plans drawn up to almost double the size of the club and install another two boxing rings to add to the one they already have.
Brian added: “Unfortunately when the plans came back they were suggesting something that would cost us almost £500,000 – there is absolutely no way we can afford that so we are trying to get revised plans to find something more affordable for us.”
Brian said that he and others involved in the club had been gathering support for their bid and so far had got the backing of many local groups and individuals.
He also has the packing of politicians and local police inspector Kerry Lynch has written a letter praising the club.
Inspector Lynch said over the years the club has done so much to support youngsters and provide them with opportunities .
She said: “The club have an opportunity to expand and improve the facilities on offer which will only enhance their ability to grow and develop and support the local community and improve outcomes for young people who get involved in this amazing organisation.”
Brian said the club has also been endorsed by the Junction Young Person’s Residential House in Dundee, who look after some of the most vulnerable young people in the city.
Manager there, Neil Mclaughlin, has written a letter explaining they have a number of young people who attend the club and are benefitting greatly.
Brian said: “They have said they are witnessing an improvement in fitness, self esteem ad behaviour in young people who attend the club on a regular basis.
“They said our trainers provide an environment based on mutual self respect and discipline.
“I hope that with all this support and backing we will be able to fund a decent extension to the club to get more local youngsters involved.”