“EVERYTHING we do here isn’t for us, or for our benefit. It’s for the kids.”
Greg Wiltshire doesn’t want recognition, or attention. After some pushing he reluctantly elaborated on what his 28Hundred Martial Arts Gym is doing for the less fortunate youth of Orange.
“These are good kids who just need some direction,” he said.
“I’m here to hopefully give them that if they want to help themselves. That’s the main thing. I’m not here to help, I’m a facilitator. If they don’t want to help themselves they will fail. Our students have to be working or studying. But working could be as simple as mowing lawns or weeding gardens.”
Mr Whiltshire owns 28Hundred Gym, currently located in Leewood Estate. Mr Whiltshire is in the process of moving to a larger facility in Ralston Drive, pending development approval. The gym focuses on several disciplines of martial arts, primarily judo.
“We accept anyone and that has seen a lot of disadvantaged, for want of a better word, kids come to us,” Mr Whiltshire said.
“Other people have given up on them, they come from all walks of life. Some are homeless or couch surfers, some are violent, some are just plain criminals.”
For these kids, 28Hundred has one simple goal - to help them become better people. The gym offers several classes for virtually no payment and provides the children with purpose and meaning.
“That’s what these kids need, somewhere to go and learn,” Mr Whiltshire said.
“Some aren’t made for school, but they need to learn how to live life somewhere. We provide them with martial arts training that helps them learn discipline, respect, teamwork, along with how to stay calm in pressure situations - all transferrable skills.
“They pay fees, but if they need to work around the gym as payment or pay in instalments, so be it. We won’t turn them away.”
"It is an incredible feeling when a student comes back and tells you they got a full-time job or they’ve enrolled in uni"
Satisfaction is born from the program’s success, Mr Whiltshire explained, but some kids slip through the cracks.
“We’ve seen plenty come and go,” he said, lamenting the lost students.
“But it is an incredible feeling when a student comes back and tells you they got a full-time job or they’ve enrolled in uni or something like that. These kids are starting to see it too, a lot of them are volunteer teachers in the gym now.”
Mr Whiltshire and his wife took the program to another level recently, fostering a child.
“We’ve had a few now,” he said.
“Some of our kids have nothing, no friends, family or point to their lives. If we can help, we have an obligation to lend a hand. We have kids of our own, my step-children actually, and they are in the gym too, training bikers, parents, osteopaths, ex-criminals. You name it they train here. And you’d never guess, they’re all mates.”
It is unknown when 28Hundred’s new premises will be open.
“We aren’t saints, and this is a business. I’m no charity worker. I’d like to think we’re breaking down some of the barriers being ‘disadvantaged’ causes in this town,” Mr Whiltshire said.