by Alan Jacques
PERSONAL trainer Eric Johnson is Limerick’s very own Santa Claus.
The inspirational 24-year-old from Southill brought joy and wonder to hundreds of Limerick children this Christmas through a selfless act of goodwill for those in desperate need during the festive season.
Big-hearted Eric opened The Training Room, a gym focused on TRX suspension training, located on Earsons Lane across from Bourke’s pub off Catherine Street at the start of 2014. Then this month, as he was about to celebrate his first year in business by turning on the lights on the Christmas tree in his gym, his father Larry sparked an idea about helping Limerick’s poor.
“He just suggested that I do something for those who would have nothing this Christmas. It was a really simple idea but it wouldn’t go away,” Eric tells the Limerick Post.
“Thankfully, I never wanted for anything, but I come from a very humble background and I’ve seen people around me go through very tough times. I appreciate all I have and really believe that Christmas is all about giving,” he explains.
What started as a simple idea on Facebook, to get some friends and clients to donate enough toys to fit under his gym’s Christmas tree before giving them to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, soon spiralled out of all control. Worried that no one would donate toys, Eric even spent around €800 to be sure the venture was a success.
But the young fitness instructor needn’t have fretted. What happened next proved the spirit of Christmas was alive and well in Limerick.
“I run classes in my gym five or six times every day, but so many toys started coming in that there was no room on the floor to run my classes. I’d come in in the mornings and there were sacks of toys left outside. For a finish, I got enough toys for 500 or 600 children,” says a gobsmacked Eric.
“Around 90 per cent of them were brand new and those that were secondhand were like new. It wasn’t pound shop stuff either it was the best of toys from bikes and rocking horses to teddy bears and Playstations. I couldn’t believe it.”
Eric collected so many toys that he was even able to put some aside to make a special trip out to the Children’s Ark located in Sunshine Ward of the University Hospital Limerick on Christmas Day.
“I dressed up as Spiderman to give the kids in the hospital a Christmas surprise. There are so many generous people in Limerick and they always rally around. That spirit is encouraging, especially when so many people have it so tough at the minute,” he said.