An East Vancouver baseball player is hoping for a home run with his GoFundMe campaign raising funds to support men’s mental health in the Downtown Eastside.
Sean Elbe, founder of East Van Sandlot Society, is organizing the fundraiser for the DUDES Club, “a participant-led community for men’s wellness with activity-based clubs that prioritize supportive relationships, engagement in healthcare, and local Indigenous worldviews”.
Since its establishment in the Downtown Eastside in 2010, DUDES clubs have been set up in communities across BC.
Elbe explains that his relationship with the DUDES Club began in 2019 with a visit to the batting cages.
“Our friend Paul Gross is the founding physician of the DUDES Club. We both share a love for baseball and over a trip to the batting cages in 2019, we discussed what the EVSS could do to serve the DUDES,” said Elbe. “Paul invited me to one of their weekly DUDES meetings held in an old building beside the Patricia Hotel. I learned how they operated in a member-directed way and was impressed. At the second meeting, I was invited to ask the DUDES if they wanted to play a baseball game weekly and they all said yes.”
“From there we did a series of “gear raisers.” A ton of teams and leagues including the Lower Mainland Baseball Association and Baseball BC stepped up and we gathered up enough baseball equipment to get going. Over the summer of 2019, we did weekly practices in hopes of continuing on in the summers to come, adding in games once we get everyone back into shape.”
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When COVID-19 caused the pandemic lockdown, Elbe found himself thinking about the DUDES and how their experience must be more difficult than others.
“How would COVID-19 look for you if you didn’t have access to health services? Simple technologies like cell phones and laptops with connectivity? Exercise equipment and a motivating community?” asked Elbe. “These things we all take for granted. But are harsh realities for people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It’s easier than ever with social distancing to avoid the challenges faced by our city’s most vulnerable.”
“Sadly, we’ve had to put baseball on hold until advised by the leadership of the DUDES, depending on public health orders, vaccinations and safe play options. In the meantime, they’re delivering great programs to support the guys during this time. Programs that need your help.”
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Money raised in East Van Sandlot Society’s GoFundMe campaign will go towards funding the DUDES Club’s essential programs for mental health and wellness. As of writing this article, over $2,500 has been raised of their $5,000 goal.
The first $500 of donations were matched by Elbe and his wife Aryana. Donations over $100 will receive either an East Van Sandlot Society t-shirt or retro East Van Black Sox long sleeve.
“We’ve had numerous offers for volunteers once we get started again which is great,” said Elbe. “What we could really use now are a volunteer photographer, videographer, and a graphic designer to help us 10 times our goal of $5000 in this campaign. I’ve had some offers now from the philanthropic community and hope to announce a tech leader who will challenge 25 peers to match his $2500 donation.”
Elbe says he hopes to be in talks with major telecom companies like Bell, Rogers, TELUS, or Shaw to possibly get some pre-loaded phones for members of the DUDES Club.
“Finally, we have some great corporate sponsors signing up to the campaign including The Human Trainer, who just donated enough at-home exercise bands to help the guys get ready for the next opportunity to play,” he explained.
“The DUDES are the first to help each other and members of the Downtown Eastside community. It’s a story and a community that we cannot forget during this most critical time of the pandemic.”