Downtown Boxing Gym Graduates Receive College Scholarships
The Downtown Boxing Gym is proud to present our first-ever Al (Blue) Lewis Scholarships. Three deserving graduates were selected to receive $1,000 each to help with college expenses. The scholarships will be given out annually to students who demonstrate positivity and productivity.
A new scholarship program at the Downtown Boxing Gym pays homage to a hero of Detroit’s boxing past while boosting our leaders of tomorrow.
Tonight, the Downtown Boxing Gym awarded its first-ever Al (Blue) Lewis Scholarships to three graduates, bestowed by the H.T. Ewald Foundation, a family-run organization that supports charities and nonprofits worldwide. Each student received $1,000 for college expenses.
Scholarship winners were: Cala Oatis, a pre-med Wayne State University student; David Davis, a student at Alabama A&M University majoring in business; and Charisma Parker, an incoming sophomore at Alabama A&M studying biology.
“This scholarship will impact me so much because now I can purchase all of my books, along with other schools supplies I need,” said Charisma. “This scholarship has taken a huge weight off my shoulders.”
To be considered, students had to submit a video, a letter of recommendation and an essay. Recipients were chosen by the gym’s academic committee.
“Our mission is to provide the best support possible to empower our students and their futures,” says Carolyn Geck, the boxing gym’s development director. “This scholarship program means that our ability to empower students continues after they leave their Downtown Boxing Gym safe-haven and head out into the next phase of their lives.”
For the winners, the money helps ease not only the financial burden of their next chapter – but an emotional one as well.
"I'm so thankful for all of the support the boxing gym has given me," said David.
"I feel like now I can accomplish anything," added Cala. "I'm proud and honored to be selected."
Power of Potential
For Wendy Ewald, a member of the H.T. Ewald Foundation’s board and granddaughter of its founder, the scholarships mark the beginning of a partnership between the foundation and the boxing gym -- the program is funded for three years -- and the end of her search for Al Lewis, a former heavyweight boxer she considers family.
Wendy’s father, Ted Ewald, was a well-known boxing promoter in Detroit and the son of H.T. Ewald, founder of the Campbell-Ewald advertising empire. Although Ted didn’t go into the family business, he was immensely dedicated to the family’s foundation and established its scholarship programs.
Ted believed in the power of potential.
“What he really wanted was to find people who were motivated, not necessarily the top students, but those who would really do something with their education and give back to society,” Wendy says.
When he wasn’t scouting scholarship recipients or working at his auto dealership, Ted was managing boxers.
“He became involved in boxing because he felt it was a way to create opportunities for talented people in Detroit's African American community,” Wendy says.
Her father mentored many fighters, she says, but Al was special.
A young man with a troubled past, Al knew little about life outside the ring. But in Al, Ted saw a determined soul destined for greatness. Taking Al under his wing, Ted served as his manager and a father figure who taught Al a lot about boxing, but even more about life.
An incredible bond was formed.
“He was really a part of our family,” Wendy says, and he knew it. “He always used to joke with me that I thought I was the oldest (sibling) in the family, but that really he was.”
After Al’s heavyweight boxing career ended – a career highlighted by a bout with Muhammad Ali --- he turned to coaching, passing down the lessons he learned to the next generation of boxers, some of whom now coach at the Downtown Boxing Gym.
A Man And A Mission
For years after her father passed away in 1996, Wendy often wondered what had become of Al. A recent search to find the man who meant so much to her brought Wendy to the Downtown Boxing Gym. Not only did she learn of Al’s whereabouts, but she discovered a place with a mission that mirrored her dad’s.
“I was very intrigued and wanted to help” she says.
From there, the scholarship program was born.
“If my dad were alive today, I think he would be thrilled about the new scholarship program at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” Wendy says. “Al Lewis was certainly a model as a talented fighter, trainer, and mentor who came from an incredibly tough environment. This new scholarship program connects two of my dad's passions for helping people in Detroit.”
When it came time to name the new scholarship program, Carolyn says the choice was clear.
“The H.T. Ewald Foundation left the naming decision up to the boxing gym, but we wouldn't have it any other way,” she says. “Naming the scholarship after Al (Blue) Lewis allows us to honor his work and influence, while we combine the two most important aspects of our program --- books and boxing.”