Community Boxing and Fitness Center

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Kansas City, Kan.
(913) 371-7676

Objective: Use boxing and personal guidance to meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of youth.

In a Nutshell: Staff at CBFC teach the principles of boxing and fitness while building a relationship between the youth, the boxing club and the community. About 25 youth drop in every day after school and spend about two hours working at different stations: running and doing push-ups, hitting heavy bags and speed bags, and sparring in the ring. The staffers guide youth on personal issues as the need arises.

Where and When: The gym is in an old warehouse purchased by co-founder Marlyn Nevels, and is open every weekday afternoon and evening.

Who Started/Runs It: Plans for the center began in January, and the gym opened in August. The program was founded and is run by former boxers Gregory Suttington, Preston Thomas and Nevels. Suttington, a former pro fighter and now a Baptist pastor, is the gym director. Six volunteers help oversee the training.

Obstacles: Insuring the program was an initial concern, especially for Nevels, the property owner. He says the national Golden Gloves Association provided coverage at a reasonable rate.

Another struggle is finding volunteers who are willing to put in enough time and know how to supervise boxing.

Cost: Projected at $55,000 for the first year. The center asks parents who can afford it to pay $25 per month for each of their kids who participate; just under half of families do so.

Who Pays: “We are operating from our own funds to keep the doors open,” Nevels says. “We have received many positive responses, but for now, we have collected a very small amount toward our goal.” The boxing equipment company Ringside supplied the ring and some equipment.

Youth Served: The center, located in what Nevels calls the “inter-city,” works with boys and girls ages 6 to 17, all of whom come in voluntarily. Most are black, although Nevels says the number of Hispanic youth has increased recently.

Youth Turn-On: Sparring and reaching the physical goals that each youth sets with his or her instructors.

Turn-Off: The rigorous exercise regimen, and the limited amount of sparring the youth are allowed to do. “Coach Suttington must be in the ring when the youth are sparring, for their own safety,” Nevels says.

What Still Gets in the Way: “We have noticed a great deal of anger in many of our youth, with no way to vent their anger,”

Nevels says. “We have also noticed many of the younger-aged children just wanting to be loved and talked to.”

He’s also noticed “a lack of real emotion in the youth. There is a wall that has formed and must be chiseled away. It sometimes becomes very difficult to assess many of their needs.”