About Downtown Boxing Gym

Since 2007 the Downtown Boxing Gym has been teaching kids growing up in Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods valuable life lessons - inside and outside the classroom, and inside and outside the boxing ring. By providing mentorship, tutoring, and basic needs support (transportation and food) for our students, we are able to create a lasting impact that ripples out across the community.

How we serve

The Downtown Boxing Gym currently serves more than 150 students between the ages of 8 and 18. Our students come to us from 30 different zip codes and 57 schools across Detroit and nearby suburbs.
Our programs are 100% free to all our students. Our ever growing waiting list now exceeds 850 children. How do we empower students? Check out the graphic below.

Our mission

Through education, athletics, mentorship and intervention, the Downtown Boxing Gym empowers Detroit students to be positive and productive members of society.

The Downtown Boxing Gym's fleet of vans pick up and drop off students daily to ensure that transportation is not a barrier to participation. Our vans reach every corner of the city. Take a look!

The Downtown Boxing Gym is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Every dollar contributed helps to shrink our waiting list and allows us to serve more students.

Meet our team

Khali Sweeney

Founder and CEO
Creating a safe haven for Detroit students is what Khali Sweeney had in mind when he opened the doors to Downtown Boxing Gym in 2007 – where the rule is books before boxing. Khali’s passion and mission is to empower young people and change lives through academics, athletics, enrichment opportunities, mentorship, and community service. He shares his knowledge of boxing and enthusiasm for learning by creating an environment where kids can be themselves, support one another, and have the courage to stand up against the pressures they face every day. Khali’s life changed one day when he realized that everyone he knew was either dead or in jail. He knew he had to make a difference and his program has positively impacted hundreds of young lives. Khali is a 2017 CNN Hero Top 10 finalist and a 2018 recipient of Michigan’s Governor’s Service Award for Mentor of the Year.

Jessica Hauser

Executive Director
Jessica Hauser serves as Executive Director of the Downtown Boxing Gym, a role she has held since 2010 when she walked into the gym for personal training and was surprised and inspired by what she saw. From that day forward, she has been dedicated to helping the youth program grow and thrive. Her responsibilities include leading the gym’s full and part-time staff, managing all administrative needs, directing fundraising efforts, cultivating a wide variety of educational, cultural and enrichment opportunities for students, and providing strategic direction for the growing nonprofit. Jessica is a graduate of Oakland University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She completed some coursework for an advanced degree in International Children’s Rights at the University of Michigan. She is a member of the 2018 Crain's class of 40 Under 40 and serves on the board of the Detroit chapter of Women in Sports and Events (WISE).

Kunjan Patel

Chief Operating Officer
Kunjan Patel is the Downtown Boxing Gym’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), responsible for overseeing all operations and functions of the gym; from human resources to transportation, coaching, academics and overall building maintenance. Kunjan works to maximize efficiencies, processes and systems to make every student’s experience better. She is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Prior to joining the Downtown Boxing Gym, Kunjan worked at GE Aviation and the Deloitte Consulting Group. Kunjan is a Detroit-native, committed to making an impact and setting our students up for success and a long-term prosperous future!

Nisha Patel

Chief of Staff
Nisha keeps things running smoothly behind the scenes at DBG, managing calendars and communications for our executive director and CEO and working to drive processes and action oriented results. She is also a champion for change, focused on process improvements for our organization’s long-term growth. An Ohio native, Nisha is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Exercise Science and a minor in Business Administration. She says working at DBG perfectly blends her passions, “I love children and I believe education and physical activity are critically important to a students’ growth, development and future success.”
DBG Leslie Andrews

Leslie Andrews

Senior Director of Strategic Direction
Leslie is is our Senior Director of Strategic Direction, responsible for overall strategy, donor development, and major gift campaigns. A seasoned nonprofit community development executive with a background in radio media sales, she is passionate about the role corporations and private entities can play in the lives of citizens. Following a successful tenure as Director of Community Relations and Corporate Partnerships for Rock Ventures, Leslie launched Daisy Ventures LLC, a parent company for three businesses: Leslie Andrews Consulting, Leslie Speaks! and the lifestyle blog "Grown Woman Chronicles." Leslie is a graduate of Spelman Collage and Northcentral University where she received her MBA.

Carolyn Geck

Development Director
Carolyn Geck is working to spearhead development and fundraising efforts as Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program continues to grow. Formerly an arts administrator and project manager with Michigan Opera Theatre, she has led initiatives in design, sponsorship, volunteer coordination, production, marketing, and logistics, as well as financial oversight. A member of the Board of Directors for Opera MODO, Carolyn works to promote development of community programs in order to engage wider audiences. She volunteers with Tour de Troit and the March du Nain Rouge, and has lived in the city since 2001.

Meredith Potter

Development Admin/Event Coordinator
Meredith Potter serves as development administrator and event coordinator for the Downtown Boxing Gym, maintaining donation records and managing donor relations to sustain and grow our community of supporters and friends. In addition, she oversees logistics and planning for the many events the boxing gym hosts both on and off-site. Meredith is a graduate of Mary Washington College; she received a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of New Hampshire. Prior to joining the Downtown Boxing Gym, Meredith worked in college admissions and taught English at a boarding school where she was heavily involved in student life.

Katie Anderson

Academic Director
Katie is the Downtown Boxing Gym’s Academic Director, responsible for academic programming and overseeing our full-time and part-time academic staff. She is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in educational technology. Katie previously taught at a Detroit public school and a Catholic school in Chicago. She comes from a long line of teachers and says empowering and educating young people is part of her DNA. Her goal is help all of our students reach their greatest potential, partnering with teachers, family members, and the community.

Mike Mroz

Academic Coordinator
Passionate about education and helping to change the lives of the young people who participate in our free, after-school academic and athletic program, Mike also oversees academic programming for our students, with the focus on elementary-middle school students. He joined the Downtown Boxing Gym from the Michigan Science Center where he was the traveling science educator. Mike grew up in the metro Detroit area and graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in elementary education. Before college, he lived and worked at Disney World, the happiest place on Earth. Mike’s focus is improving grades and educational awareness for each student who participates in our program and, in turn, making a positive and long-lasting impact on students’ lives.

Kristin Lusk

Academic Coordinator
As Academic Coordinator, Kristin oversees academic programming for our students. Having grown up in the metro Detroit area, she is familiar with the strengths and opportunities that surround our youth. Kristin earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from Lawrence Technological University. After completing her studies, she went on to become Director of Outreach Education for the Detroit Center for Design + Technology. During her time there she taught and authored a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) based curriculum in Education Achievement Authority (EAA) schools, Detroit Public Schools and other metro area school districts. At the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, Kristin works to further develop the academic opportunities available to our students, including college and career readiness programs, STEM initiatives, academic interventions and enrichment programs.

Coach Tamika

Transportation Coordinator
Asiya El, also known as Coach Tamika, started volunteering at the Downtown Boxing Gym as a parent in March 2013. She joined the coaching staff as Coach Khali’s assistant and an amateur boxing official in April of the same year and helped organize a parent group to raise funds to help students attend out-of-state boxing events. In 2017, she was honored as the “Most Outstanding Official” at the Golden Gloves National Tournament. Today, Coach Tamika is also responsible for overseeing our transportation program, drivers and fleet of vans. She is a mentor and second mother to many. The safety and well being of our students is her number one priority.
Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Communications Director
Robin serves as the Downtown Boxing Gym’s chief storyteller, overseeing all aspects of communication including PR/media relations, social media, blogs and web content, video production and more. Robin is an Emmy award winning former TV news anchor/reporter with Fox 2 News in Detroit. She also previously served as Director of Public Relations for Dan Gilbert’s real estate company, Bedrock. Robin has a passion for Detroit and its people, the boxing gym, and the ongoing story of our efforts to change lives and help our students thrive. She owns her own PR firm, Robin Schwartz PR. Members of the media can send inquiries to media@downtownyouthboxing.org.

Kadeem Anderson

Kadeem is the first-ever apprentice at the Downtown Boxing Gym. He is a 2015 graduate of the program; Kadeem first began attending the boxing gym when he was 12. As apprentice to our founder and CEO Khali Sweeney, Kadeem is learning the ins and outs of running a successful nonprofit and developing the leadership skills needed to carry on the organization’s mission for generations to come. Kadeem is a graduate of Lansing Eastern High School. He has completed some pre-med courses at Oakland University and eventually plans to pursue a medical degree.

2018-19 Board of Directors


Julie Lodge-Jarrett

Board Chair

Julie Lodge-Jarrett is the Chief Talent Officer (CTO) at Ford Motor Company, and has overall global responsibility for Talent Acquisition & Onboarding, Talent Development, Executive & Key Talent, Talent Analytics, Talent Experience & Culture, and Talent Systems & Operations. Julie, her husband, and their two children lived in Shanghai, China, for nearly 5 years and are avid travelers and adventurists. Julie is a strong champion of Better World initiatives, and has invested countless hours volunteering around the world, helping to make lives better in the communities in which she’s lived, worked and traveled. She was hooked – figuratively and literally – from the first day she walked into DBG, and is excited about progressing the mission of the organization in the months and years to come!

Peter Fezzey

Vice President

Peter Fezzey is the VP of Growth for Skidmore Studio where he leads all account and business development functions. Fezzey has over 15 years of experience helping organizations position for growth through strategic partnership development, brand strategy & integrated marketing. As a native Detroiter, he is committed to supporting the community and has helped many local causes including Detroit Riverfront Conservancy & Karmanos Cancer Institute. Peter was first introduced to the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program while leading development efforts at Forgotten Harvest. He has been actively involved and on the Board since 2014.

Jeff Addison


Jeff Addison is an investor and provides financial advisory services to companies. Previously, he served as a Managing Director with Conway MacKenzie where he provided turnaround and crisis management services for corporate and government clients. Jeff has been actively involved with the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program since 2014 and is a member of the Detroit Athletic Club.

Joe Freers


Joe Freers is a Director within the Risk Assurance practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (PwC). Dedicated to a career spanning both PwC’s Detroit and Philadelphia offices, Joe provides specialized consulting in risk, controls, audit and compliance for mid-market private through large multi-national public companies. Cultivating a passion for connecting with people and developing our community’s youth, Joe is an active volunteer in the United Way Emerging Philanthropists organization, and serves as PwC’s local firm liaison to various charities such as Cornerstone Schools and directly to the Downtown Boxing Gym. Joe holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan - Ross School of Business. Joe is a devoted husband, father to 3 active children, and a resident of Southeastern Michigan.
Board Members

Rakesh Aneja

Rakesh has twenty years of experience in diesel powertrain development, including engineering leadership and program leadership responsibilities in the fields of advanced engine, aftertreatment and OBD system development. His core competencies include technology and product development (from technical concept through field sustaining); engineering project and platform management; global organization development and collaboration; people development; and continuous improvement via process and tools optimization. Rakesh received his Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, Indiana, U.S.A. and his Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India.

Dennis Blender

Dennis is an organizational psychologist primarily serving family-business and non-profit organizations. His professional practice has been focused on strategic planning, leadership development and building strong organizational cultures. Dennis launched his own firm, Blender Consulting Group, in 2002. Prior to that, he was a partner at Plante & Moran. He has a Ph. D. from Wayne State University in Educational Psychology. Dennis is married to Anita, and has 2 daughters, 1 son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren. In addition to consulting, Dennis teaches yoga and meditation. He has hiked the world’s famous trails on 6 continents.

Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown is a Managing Partner of Woodborn Partners and Analyst with Ford Motor Company. He graduated with an undergraduate degree and MBA in Finance from The Ohio State University. He serves on the Trustee Board of Metropolitan Church of God and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Amy Deines

Amy Green Deines is the Dean of Cranbrook Academy of Art, appointed July 2016. Prior to coming to Cranbrook, she was a Professor and Interim Dean of the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University (LTU), where she also acted as Executive Director of LTU’s Detroit Center for Design and Technology (DCDT). Deines also sits on the National Organization of Minority Architects Detroit Board of Directors. She has traveled extensively, teaching in Warsaw, Poland at the Warsaw Institute of Technology (WAPW), and in Germany, Italy and Canada.

David Moss

David Moss is the Senior Partner of Moss & Colella, P.C. He has successfully litigated thousands of cases in Michigan State and Federal Courts on behalf of clients for more than 30 years. He is highly respected by both plaintiff and defense litigators and regarded as a skilled and tenacious advocate. David is also recognized as a Michigan "Super Lawyer" and is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocate organization. Mr. Moss is a loving father and family man. He is also committed to helping others and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities.

Michael Perkins

Michael Perkins is the Corporate Sales Manager at WDET 101.9 FM, Detroit’s NPR radio station. He has 19 years of media sales experience with 11 years in commercial radio sales with CBS and Clear Channel Communications. Michael brings his commercial sales, marketing and promotions experience to public radio, assisting corporate and non-profit underwriting clients reach WDET’s quality audience. He has an M.B.A. from The University of Detroit and a B.A. in International Business and French from Alma College.

Matthew Roling

Matthew Roling is a professor and chair of Wayne State’s Accounting Department. Prior to joining Wayne State, Matthew worked in a variety of management consulting and entrepreneurial roles – most recently serving as the CEO of a venture backed financial technology start-up. A CPA and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Matthew loves to cook, travel and read in his free time.

Todd Sachse

Todd Sachse is CEO and founder of Sachse Construction, and vice president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, Inc. Over the past 22 years, he has developed a loyal clientele of high-end customers who require detailed expertise in design and construction. Todd earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1985. He is a licensed builder in dozens of states, certified LEED Accredited Professional and a Senior Level Certified Development, Design and Construction Professional (SCDP)

Brian Vieaux

Brian has been with Flagstar Bank since May, 2012 leading the Third Party Originations channels. Prior to joining Flagstar Brian held senior officer roles with market leading financial institutions. Brian began his mortgage banking career with Source One Mortgage Services Corporation and was part of the integration team assembled after CitiMortgage’s acquisition of Source One in 1999. Brian’s experience includes strategy, business development, sales and marketing, compliance, quality control and risk management. He is experienced in building business channels in both large and medium sized companies and has significant experience in all phases of management including sales production management, human resources, administration, operations, risk management, as well as training and development. In 2005 Brian attained the Mortgage Banker’s Association industry designation of Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB). Brian is an alumnus of Michigan State University. Brian is a former RESBOG member and sits on the Flagstar Bank CRA and PAC committees. Brian and his wife of 27 years, Amy have three children, Cameron 24, Ethan 22 and Devon 20.

Gary W. Wilson

Gary Wilson is a Vice President of JPMorgan Chase & Co. In this role, he oversees all Volunteerism for the firm in the State of Michigan. Gary is based in Birmingham and also serves as an ambassador for the firm locally; engaging the business and nonprofit community to showcase JPMorgan Chase’s civic engagement. Gary also serves on an advisory panel for the Mayor’s office with the City of Detroit. Gary resides in Commerce Township, MI with his wife Kelly and son Logan. Gary holds a degree from the University of Detroit Mercy.

2018-19 Advisory Board

John Carter

John C. Carter has worked for 35+ years in commercial banking for JPMorgan Chase and predecessor organizations, serving as manager or executive in charge of various lending and corporate banking groups which provide operating and capital raising services/products to corporate clients. He serves on various internal bank committees and has involvement in several outside organizations, as either member or director: YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit (Director and Past Chairman of Board), YMCA Foundation (Director), Forgotten Harvest (Board and Executive Committee Member), Judson Center (Past Chairman of Board and Trustee), Judson Center Foundation (Director), Business Leaders of Michigan (Director), Detroit Chamber of Commerce (Director), Detroit Historical Society (Director), Downtown Detroit Partnership (Director), Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (Director), Detroit Economic Club (Director), and Detroit Workforce Development Board.

John has earned a B.A. from Alma College in 1978 and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1980. He resides in Bloomfield Hills with his wife, Joanne. He also has two grown children, Megan and David.

Farshad Fotouhi

Dr. Farshad Fotouhi is currently Dean of the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Michigan State University, College of Engineering in 1988 and joined the faculty of Computer Science at Wayne State University in August 1988. He served as the Department Chair from January 2004-February 2011. Before joining WSU in 1988, he was a faculty member of the Lyman Briggs School, Michigan State University, while earning his Ph.D.

Dr. Fotouhi’s current research interests include Biomedical Informatics, Semantic Web and Multimedia Systems. He has published over 180 papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings. His research has been supported by NSF, NIH, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Michigan Life Sciences Corridor, Ford Motor Company and many other industries.

Ron Fournier

Ron Fournier is the Associate Publisher for Crain’s Detroit Business. As Associate Publisher, Fournier leads editorial content strategy and works to expand new business and audience opportunities for the publication. Prior to joining Crain’s, Fournier served as editor-in-chief of the National Journal for two years and as senior political columnist for the National Journal and The Atlantic. Fournier has won many journalism awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award and the White House Correspondents’ Association Merriman Smith Memorial Award. A graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy, Ron began his journalistic career in Hot Springs, Ark., moving to Little Rock to cover then-Gov. Bill Clinton. Fournier is the author of Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations which became a NYT bestseller. He serves on the senior advisory board of the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Jennifer Hammond

Jennifer Hammond

Jennifer Hammond is a beloved television sports anchor/reporter at Fox 2 News in Detroit. For more than two decades she has covered the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons along with Michigan and Michigan State sports.

Among the many things she does to support the Downtown Boxing Gym, Jennifer hosts an annual fundraiser called "Hammer's All Stars." This high-energy event includes local athletes and celebrities serving as bartenders, helping to raise dollars and awareness about our books before boxing program.

Yodit Mesfin Johnson

As Chief Relationship Officer at NEW (Nonprofit Enterprise at Work), Yodit initiates strategic partnerships, high impact collaborations, and innovative business opportunities. Prior to joining NEW, she directed a statewide business development project for the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). Yodit studied Marketing and Communications at Eastern Michigan University, and is the 2014 recipient of the American Business Women’s Association Rising Star award. Yodit is founder of Lips & Hips, a leadership program for girls and women.

Bruce Nyberg

Bruce Nyberg joined Flagstar’s board in March 2015, after serving as interim director of Community Banking. As a board member, he serves on the company’s risk committee.

Prior to Flagstar, he was regional president-East Michigan for Huntington Bancshares Incorporated for six years. He had a 28-year career at NBD Bancorp (now Chase Bank), where he led Michigan Commercial Banking, Retail Banking Operations, Marketing, Information Technology, and Electronic Banking. Among his board memberships are the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees, Forgotten Harvest, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

Jennifer Miller Oertel

Jennifer Miller Oertel is a shareholder in the law firm of Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss, PC, where she leads the firm’s Tax-exempt Organizations and Impact Investing Group. Jennifer utilizes her corporate & securities law and governance skills to serve tax-exempt clients, impact investors and social entrepreneurs in all aspects of their activities. She is the first-ever Impact Investing Expert in Residence for the Council of MI Foundations, working on developing and furthering the impact investing ecosystem in Michigan and beyond.

Stephen Luigi Piazza

Stephen Luigi Piazza is the Senior Director of Mortgage Loans with Quicken Loans here in Detroit. In his nearly 20 years with Quicken, he has been instrumental in many key projects, including leading the company’s presenting sponsorship with the Detroit Pistons. He joined the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program Advisory Board in February of 2014 and has worked tirelessly to support efforts to grow the program. Stephen is currently the co-host of Opportunity Detroit, a radio program focusing on the revitalization of Detroit.

Jim Ryan

Jim Ryan founded JPRA Architects, an award winning architectural firm specializing in National and International commercial projects, and directed design and marketing activities until his retirement in 2008. He serves Lawrence Tech University on the Alumni Board, Steering Committee, and Distinguished Architectural Alumni. Jim serves as the Architectural Advisor to the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

Hubert Sawyers, III

Hubert is principal at SORSAW Enterprises, a digital marketing consultancy that specializes in optimizing search and social efforts to enhance business activity. Hubert has supported other local causes including North Rosedale Park Civic Association and Michigan Humane Society. A Michigan State University graduate, he studied both International Relations and Japanese. Born and raised in Detroit, he now resides in Ferndale, and spends time collecting records, cooking, and staying physically active.

Tahir Whitehead

Tahir Whitehead was selected by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Temple University. Whitehead, who became one of the teams most valuable players on special teams through his first two seasons, moved into the starting lineup at middle linebacker for Detroit September 28, 2014. Whitehead finished an impressive season with 86 tackles, 2 interceptions and 5 passes defensed. After spending six season in Detroit, Whitehead continues his NFL career in Oakland for the Raiders. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Whitehead has found his niche working with youth in the Metro Detroit area, with a primary focus on education. Since September of last year, Whitehead has hosted events with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, the Detroit Public School Systems Proud Strong Learner’s Program and Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

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The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (IRS EIN 27-5106242). All donations are tax deductible.

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