COVINA — A nonprofit athletic and academic training center for San Gabriel Valley teens threw open its doors Saturday with an emotional ceremony and a joyful celebration.
The Man-E Moreno Foundation’s “212 Training Center” is a dream four years in the making. And though the grand opening ceremony was a cheerful event for all in attendance, the origin of the center was a tragedy — the 2007 murder of 26-year-old Manuel Joseph Moreno.
The young graphic artist was gunned down on Nov. 10, 2007, in his hometown of Covina by a gunman who remains unidentified.
In the wake of Manuel’s death, family members including brother Robert Moreno and parents Charlie and Evelyn Moreno forged their devastation into determination and founded the Man-E Moreno Foundation, dedicated to keeping young people on a positive path and away from gang, drugs and violence.
Since then, the foundation has worked with local youths and comforted families of other murder victims as it worked toward the goal of establishing a permanent street address in the San Gabriel Valley.
The culmination of that dream came Saturday, as Robert Moreno cut the ribbon in front of the 212 Training Center in the midst of an accompanying block party.
“I’m not here to dwell on my brother’s murder, but that event birthed a vision,” he said. “I’d rather turn this tragedy into a triumph.”
Through the center, Robert Moreno said, he hoped to help ensure other young people do not stray down the path of violence and crime.
Officials including Covina Police Chief Kim Raney and Mayor John King welcomed the center to town and commended the Moreno family for their work, and their resilience in the face of tragedy.
“This is the kind of place where kids can come and see a different path,” King said. “A place to go to train both their minds and their bodies.”
The 3,700-square-foot 212 Training Center, 542 N. Second Avenue, offers a synthetic turf covered sports training facility, complete with a batting cage, weight training system and other equipment, and professional athletic trainers have volunteered to staff the gym.
The center also houses a classroom-style study lab, complete with computers and white boards.
Each center member is required to complete one hour of study for every hour of athletic training, Robert Moreno explained.
The center, which espouses Christian principals, is also designed to provide positive mentoring and encouragement to young people, he added.
The name of the center, “212,” is taken from the center’s motivational philosophy, Moreno family members said.
At 211 degrees Fahrenheit, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils, Moreno said. 212 is a symbol for putting in “that extra degree” of effort, whether it’s in sports, academics or daily life.
Many family members of other homicide victims attended the grand opening to support the center.
“We’re behind them 100 percent,” said Tina Yamashiro, aunt to 16-year-old Sammantha Salas, who was fatally shot on Jan., 26, 2008, near her father’s home in an unincorporated county area near Monrovia.
She attended the event with her husband, Ernie.
“They do a really fantastic job for the young generation,” she said.
Moreno thanked the city, Covina police and sponsors such as Home Depot, Pregra Artificial Grass and and TRX Suspension Training for their support.
“We’re not going to live in the past, we’re going to go after our future,” Robert Moreno said. “This is just the beginning. We look forward to expanding the facility and reaching more kids.”
For more information on the 212 Training Center, call 626-407-3989, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
grand opening of the 212 Training Center in Covina along with Covina
Mayor John King, center, and Covina Police Chief Kim Raney. (Brian Day)