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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.”


Out And About!

DBG Experiences Detroit City FC

Our students had a blast taking in the excitement and high energy of a semi-professional soccer game under the lights in Hamtramck. Thank you to fans who also donated soccer equipment to our program.

Multi-colored smoke exploded from the stands and settled onto the turf as 30 students and chaperones from the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program cheered. That was just one of the highlights of a thrilling, fast-paced soccer game July 14 at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. It was the Detroit City Football Club’s regular season finale against Lansing United. For some of our students, it was their first time at a stadium, let alone a live soccer match.

“It was fun and exciting,” said 14 year-old-Madison who added that the atmosphere was “hype.”

Since the team was founded in 2012, Detroit City FC has been dedicated to supporting the community through partnerships and philanthropy. Not only did the club donate tickets to the game, they teamed up with Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers to collect gently used soccer gear for our students to enjoy in our fenced-in outdoor space. Even though our focus is books and boxing, we have some budding soccer players among our 140 students.

“It was great to see the kids having fun and experiencing something new,” said academic coordinator Mike Mroz. “At the Downtown Boxing Gym one of our goals is to give our students access to events and activities they’ve never tried before.”

Thank you to the fans who donated soccer balls, cleats and shin guards to our program and a huge thank you to DCFC for an unforgettable night. For the record, the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Good luck to the home team as they head to the playoffs!

Summer Fun!

From Ringside to Riverside: Our Kayaking Adventure

Every Wednesday, a group of students from the Downtown Boxing Gym goes kayaking on the Detroit River. Detroit River Sports is teaching us everything we need to know to be safe on the water. Check out our blog post below including writing contributions from two of our 6th grade students, Makyla and Roderick.

What’s it like to kayak on the Detroit River? “It’s fun,” says 11 year old Makyla.

“First, you have to paddle and stay focused. I like how much experience you can get from doing this, when you are in the water. Now I feel like I can do anything challenging in the world.”

Every Wednesday for the next five weeks, 10 elementary students are participating in two clinics: one is “kayak boot camp” to learn the basics; the other includes games and water safety skills. Middle and high school students will participate during the following five weeks. The experience shows our students a new side of Detroit many have never seen before – two miles of canals into the Detroit River, ending at Belle Isle Beach.

“Most students from the inner city do not have access to pools or water sports, but water safety is important to learn,” explains our academic coordinator Kristin Lusk. “It is also important for them to learn about the natural resources in our city.”

“I like it because when you’re in water, you have to be focused and strong” Roderick, 11, said about his experience. “At first I felt like I was going to fall off, but after about 5 minutes of practice I got used to it.”

While kayaking, Roderick described the water as “deep,” and the sky “blue with a few clouds.” He also made a note of how hot it was outside. Scenery from the kayak included “lots of trees, houses along the canal, and dogs.” He even saw a fish that swam under his kayak.

“I learned that you need to listen,” Roderick added. “I would tell my friends to try it, and teach them, but make sure to tell them that they need to be focused and listen.”

The Downtown Boxing Gym thanks Detroit River Sports for providing the training and equipment our students need to enjoy this weekly kayaking adventure. We are excited to hit the water and keep working on our skills over the next 10 weeks.


Winning in the Ring!

Congratulations to our 2017 Junior Olympic National Champions!

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is celebrating this holiday weekend after three youth boxers won national championships at the Junior Olympics.

Josue Feliciano, 13, Yusef Mohammed, 9, and Ferris Dixon, 13, all won their weight classes to bring national titles back to Detroit. All three also won at during the Junior Olympic Regional Competition (held at the Downtown Boxing Gym in May) in order to advance to the national Junior Olympics competition.

The Junior Olympics took place at The Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia from June 26-July 1. The program is the most visible youth athlete developmental program in the world. The Junior Olympic championship is the biggest US tournament these boxers could possibly win. Their hard work and dedication truly paid off!

As is the case with all of our students, Josue, Yusef and Ferris take part in our free, after-school academic and athletic program where the rule is “books before boxing.” All are focused on their schoolwork and excelling in school as well as in the boxing ring.

Fueling Young Minds!

More Books for your Bucks

Studies show that reading during the summer months helps students retain what they’ve learned and prevents ‘summer slide.’ Now through July 1, donate $33 to our book drive and a Downtown Boxing Gym student will receive $50 worth of brand new books.

‘Brain Bags’ – just the sound of them makes you feel smarter. Usborne Books and More, a Tulsa, Oklahoma based company that sells children’s books, wants to put together dozens of brain bags for our students at the Downtown Boxing Gym, filled with brand new fiction, non-fiction and activity books to keep them reading all summer. Studies show that access to books during the summer prevents students of all ages from slipping behind.

“Regardless of economic background, children who do not keep reading over the summer can lose a grade level or more in their schooling ability,” says Laura Bratby, Usborne’s educational consultant. “Children who do read during the summer months improve and are more prepared to move ahead into the new school year.”

Bratby actually lives in Michigan, but she first learned about the boxing gym by way of the British TV show Unreported World. The show recently focused on the Downtown Boxing Gym’s literacy programs that are helping our Detroit students get to the appropriate grade level in reading. Laura knew right away she wanted to get involved.

“My in-laws live in the UK and they saw the show,” Bratby explains. “I looked up [the Downtown Boxing Gym] and was blown away by the amazing work they do.”

Laura helped set up the book drive. Now though July 1, anyone can donate on our homepage support the effort. Thanks to a matching gift from Usborne, a $33 donation will get a student $50 worth of brand new books to take home and keep. Click HERE to donate now.

Illiteracy is a huge problem in our country. 93 million American adults have basic or below-basic literacy. Statistics show this contributes to poverty and crime. Through a generous grant from the women’s group Impact100, the Downtown Boxing Gym currently has an intensive literacy intervention program underway for 60 children. Brain bags and brand new books will go a long way toward helping our students practice and retain the wonderful lessons they’re learning all summer long. Our free, after school academic and athletic program runs throughout the entire school year and summer.

“A book is an amazing gift to give to a child, especially those in need,” Bratby says. “You never know, the book you give them could be the one to change the world.”

Click HERE to donate to the book drive today! Thank you!

Our Outdoor Space!

Our New Yard Levels the Playing Field for Students

The Downtown Boxing Gym now has a beautiful, safe, grass-covered yard for our students to enjoy, thanks to generous donations from three local businesses.

Our students are getting a kick out of the warm, summer-like temperatures and the chance to play soccer and other sports in the sun. We are incredibly grateful to the Edw. C. Levy Co. and Slante Excavating for their work leveling the uneven surface of our fenced-in field, improving the alleyway between the lot and our gym, and seeding the topsoil to produce a lush green lawn. Their work improves drainage following rains, but more importantly it gives our students a safe and nurturing place to play, learn and unwind after hitting the books.

The yard also features a 6-foot chain-link fence, courtesy of American Fence & Supply Co. of Warren, that was installed earlier this season.

The new playing field allows us to expand our educational and enrichment mission by giving us a place to do gardening work and host outdoor activities throughout the spring and summer months.

Eliot Weiner, general manager for Southern Michigan Aggregates Edward C. Levy Co, says the company has long track record of giving back to the communities it serves.

“The Edw. C. Levy Co. and Stante Excavating wanted to support a safe place for students to play after they have completed their school work,” Weiner said. “When their homework is done, it’s important these students have options that support a healthy lifestyle.

“Our goal was to create an environment that is more attractive to the students, the neighborhood and the Downtown Boxing Gym leadership.”

The Edw. C. Levy Co. is a family owned business that traces its beginnings to Detroit in 1918. The nearly 100-year-old company provides services to steel mills, construction materials, asphalt paving, ready-mix concrete and fertilizer.

Slante Excavating of Wixom provided equipment, engineering and grass seeding.

The Downtown Boxing Gym thanks all three companies for their donations. Not only does our new yard improve our physical appearance and add green space and fun, it also represents an investment in Detroit’s children.

Investing in the Future!

Detroit Diesel Partners with the Downtown Boxing Gym

The Detroit-based company, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, has selected the Downtown Boxing Gym as its first-ever targeted campaign partner, pledging financial support, job training opportunities and volunteers.
When Detroit Diesel generously donated $150,000 to the Downtown Boxing Gym in early June, it was more than just a financial gesture. They see our students as the future. They share our vision.

Jeff Allen, head of operations at Detroit Diesel, presented the big check and gave our students a brief overview about his company.

“We make big diesel engines and transmissions and axles that go into the big trucks you see, the really big trucks that drive all around the country,” he said. “I’m the guy who’s responsible for making these big engines.”

Allen toured our facility along with Rakesh Aneja, head of engineering at Detroit Diesel. They walked through the boxing gym, classrooms, library, kitchen, music studio and outdoor space and also met with some of the 140 children who take part in our free after-school academic and athletic program.

“Since we’re so close we hope that one day some of you can come work for Detroit Diesel because we need a lot of really smart people to help us design and build these engines,’’ Allen told the students. “What you guys are doing here is really inspirational and what Khali (Sweeney) and Jessica (Hauser) and you guys are doing really has inspired us. The hard work that you do every day to continue to learn and do well in school is something that’s very, very important and we want you to continue to do that. We want to help you continue to do that. We brought you a gift today for your organization to continue to develop.’’
Proud Partnership
It’s always a boost when our students hear from those who believe in them. That is exactly the message Allen delivered. In turn, Allen and Aneja were inspired by what they saw.

“What an amazing, heartwarming story that restores my faith in humanity and makes me optimistic about the future of mankind. It is indeed a very special honor for Jeff and me to be here to get to meet Coach Khali and get to meet all of you and see this place firsthand,’’ Aneja said.

The Daimler team emphasized how proud they are to partner with us. Detroit Diesel encourages employees to take two paid days off to volunteer, work in the community and make a difference.

“At Detroit and Daimler Trucks North America, we take a lot of pride in our work — we want to make a difference to the environment, to our people, to our customers, but we also want make a bigger impact on our communities, ” Aneja said. “This is absolutely a great opportunity to partner… and we’re looking at it [as] the beginning of a long-term, fruitful partnership.”

Inspiring Words
Kahli, always the coach and mentor, seized the teachable moment and built upon the message from the Detroit Diesel executives. He thanked Allen and Aneja for the generous gift and encouraged students to think big as they think about the future.

“Here’s a group of people — they could invest in anything in the world — but they invested in the future, and the future is you all right here. Take advantage of it,” Khali told the group. “There are a lot of guys outside these walls who aren’t going to see this. They are never going to get this opportunity. And you know where they are headed? A hard road.’’

He reminded the group about the many job opportunities that can come as a result of education and learning, hard work, focus and determination.

“You all are getting the building blocks right now today, early on. Fiber optics. Computer coding. Possibly engineering school,” he said. “These people are here doing this, they don’t have to be here. They could be investing in their sons or daughters, cousins, or nieces’ soccer teams or whatever the case may be. Little League teams. But they are investing in something they feel is important. That’s educating the youth in our community. You all are getting the chance at being whatever you want to be.’’

Thank you to the entire Detroit Diesel team for your partnership and support. Welcome to our Downtown Boxing Gym family!

Growing Our Team!

Meet Mike, Our New Academic Coordinator

There’s a new face at the Downtown Boxing Gym. Academic Coordinator, Mike Mroz, joined us recently and he is passionate about working with students. Help us welcome him to our boxing gym family!

It’s easy to get to know Mike Mroz, the Downtown Boxing Gym’s new academic coordinator. First of all, he’s the guy at the door who is quick to greet students and direct them where to go.

“I love working one-on-one and getting to know every student who comes through the door. My first priority was greeting everyone at the door and asking them their name,’’ Mroz says. “From there, I have gotten to know each student on a more a personal level. They all know that homework and school comes first, but I am always game to have fun when work has been accomplished.’’

Students sign in and check in with Mroz every day. He’s a natural fit and has quickly integrated himself into our program. Mike’s goals are pretty straight forward. He wants to help improve the students’ grades and attendance, but that’s not all.

“I also want to help bring more awareness to the gym so we can increase our donor base and bring more students in off of our waiting list to expand this awesome place,’’ he says.

Mike is energized by the positive vibes and outgoing personalities within the gym — among both our students and staff.

“I love that the gym is a great place for children to come and work out and get quality one-on-one academic attention and intervention that they need to succeed,’’ he says.

Our “books before boxing” rule, 100-percent high school graduation rate, and ten-year track record of success are among the many reasons he was drawn to our program.

“That is huge, especially in Detroit. Having an opportunity to see the same students every day and make an impact with them regarding school and life has been awesome too. What Coach Kahli [Sweeney] has done with this place is truly amazing,’’ Mroz says.

This is not Mike’s first experience working with children. Mroz, 27, came to the Downtown Boxing Gym from the Michigan Science Center where he was the traveling science educator. He grew up in Rochester Hills 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.

Mroz is a standout in another way, too. He is inked with 39 tattoos.

“The majority of them are music related, family, interests, and art that my friends have created. One of my favorite ones is the song lyric ‘Heart on My Sleeve’ located on my forearm that represents that all of my tattoos are things in my life that I hold dear and are showcased on me for others to see,’’ he says.

Maybe one day he’ll add a tattoo to remind him of the Downtown Boxing Gym. When you see Mike, be sure to say “hello.”

“I am very excited for this opportunity and am thoroughly enjoying the time I am spending with the kids,’’ he says. “The relationships I have built so far are truly rewarding.”

Making an Impact!

Downtown Boxing Gym Wins 2017 Impact100 Grant

The Downtown Boxing Gym was selected from among three finalists. The funds we’ll receive from Impact100 Metro Detroit will help dozens of our students learn to read, a gift that will last a lifetime. The intensive literacy intervention program begins this summer.

Women are a powerful force. The group Impact100 Metro Detroit is showing us just how powerful we can all be when we work together. One hundred metro Detroit women pooled their resources, each contributing $1,000 to establish a $100,000 grant. The Downtown Boxing Gym is truly honored and grateful to be this year’s Impact100 Metro Detroit grant recipient.

“Our purpose is to fuel transformation in our local community by uniting women in collective giving,” reads the Impact100 Metro Detroit website. “We provide an environment that’s inviting and rewarding, while giving women the ability to combine their money in order to make big contributions to local nonprofit organizations.”

The grant will fund an intensive literacy intervention program called Beyond Basics for 60 of our students. All of our students were tested and assessed; those with the greatest need were selected to participate.

“Some of our students have been through a six-week reading intervention pilot program already,” said Khali Sweeney, Founder and CEO of the Downtown Boxing Gym. “These guys tested below average, so low that they didn’t even have a score. Now, those same students who went back there and studied hard every single day without complaining, now they’re testing at a college level.”

This week, about 25 Impact100 Metro Detroit members and friends visited and took a tour of our facility. They also met with the students and delivered the first portion of the grant.

“These people are taking the time to pay for something that’s very important,” Khali told the kids who gathered around for the presentation. “Take advantage of it.”

Click HERE to learn more about Impact100 Metro Detroit. Click HERE to make an impact by supporting the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

Strong Leaders!

Leaders Quest Brings PwC to DBG

They stepped outside of their comfort zone when they stepped into the Downtown Boxing Gym and 15 employees of PwC, Xenith and William and Bonnie came away inspired. All of them took part in a Leaders Quest afternoon program at the gym on May 24 which included throwing punches, touring our classrooms and facilities, and talking one-on-one with our founder and CEO, Khali Sweeney.

“I’m really inspired, you’re an amazing mentor, and you guys are doing incredible things here,” one young leader told Khali.

Leaders Quest is a social enterprise that develops ‘wise, compassionate and adept leaders.’ The organization helps leaders increase their impact by connecting them with exceptional leaders doing great work around the world. This was the third time a Leaders Quest group visited the Downtown Boxing Gym.

“It’s clear from walking in here that the boxing gym prioritizes the success of young people as a mechanism to transform wider communities,” said Sayo Ayodele, a Director at Leaders Quest. “We think that’s amazing. The leadership behind this place and the personal connection they have with the young people makes it really special. We think people can learn  a lot from that. Plus, it’s really fun to try boxing for the first time!”

Khali’s story of personal transformation and his passion and drive for helping others, especially Detroit students, resonated with the group. They also loved seeing the program in action as students began arriving after school.

“I’m completely overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve been on the verge of tears for the last 30-minutes,” said PwC employee Natalie Teear. “Seeing the kids here and seeing it all come to life, how one human being can completely change the world – it’s amazing.”


Reaching New Heights!

Downtown Boxing Gym Receives Grant for Rock Climbing Wall

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has awarded grants to 33 local organizations, including the Downtown Boxing Gym, from endowment funds created to carry on Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s legacy of giving. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to install new equipment and expand our programming.

Our after-school academic and athletic program is about to reach new heights thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The Downtown Boxing Gym was awarded the grant via an endowment fund which honors the legacy of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the late owner of the Buffalo Bills, whose foundation is charged with making a positive difference in communities across Southeast Michigan and Western New York. His passions included caregiving, design and access, and youth sports. The funds will be used to build a boulder climbing system in our gym and implement related programming.

“This system will help our students build confidence and self-esteem and push them outside of their comfort zones. It’s also a great workout,” said Jessica Hauser. “Our kids will be encouraged to reach higher and try harder and they’ll see first-hand what they’re able to achieve by doing so. We are excited about this opportunity and thankful for the support.”

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefitting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development, and civic affairs.
“We are delighted to see the diversity of organizations receiving grants from the Wilson Legacy Funds this year,” said Mariam C. Noland, President of the Community Foundation. “Spanning across all the seven counties of southeast Michigan, the grantee’s projects will provide unique opportunities to the region’s residents, as well as create positive impacts on their respective communities.”

Junior Olympic Boxing!

Join Us! Regional Junior Olympic Boxing Tournament May 27-28

Make this Memorial Day Weekend a weekend to remember! The Downtown Boxing Gym will host the 2017 Regional Junior Olympic Boxing Tournament. Events are open to the public and we invite you to join us. Check out the details below!

WHEN: Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28! Boxing begins at 1:00 PM each day with half-time entertainment featuring the Detroit Ghostbusters and Warped Rose!

WHERE: The Downtown Boxing Gym, 6445 E. Vernor Highway, Detroit

WHAT: Don’t miss your chance to attend this special event featuring food, fun, half-time entertainment, and of course fast action excitement in the ring! This tournament is a qualifier for the 2017 Junior Olympic National Tournament and 2017 Prep National Tournament. This family friendly event will feature the top talented athletes from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana ranging in ages 11-16.

TICKETS: Single day tickets are available for $15 or 2 day tickets for $25. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Sponsorships & VIP tables are also available.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call (313) 209-3029 or email

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS: Johnson Law, PLC, ROSSETTI, Leon and Karen Halip

Class of 2017

Senior Spotlight: Congratulations, Zoe!

Zoe is a Downtown Boxing Gym graduating senior at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School. She plans to attend Bowling Green State University in Ohio this fall where she’ll study exercise science. The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is proud to have a 100% high school graduation rate since 2007 thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff members, tutors and students alike.

Meet Zoe!

Zoe is a Cass Tech High School senior who will graduate in June. She first came to the Downtown Boxing Gym several years ago when we were in our previous location on St. Aubin Street. The varsity swimmer who also ran track says she was drawn to our program after watching videos of boxer, Laila Ali.

“She inspires me,” Zoe says.

The teen acquired many skills in the boxing ring including “hand and foot coordination” and learning “how to be quick, think fast, and outsmart my opponent.”

She also learned important life lessons while attending our free, after-school academic and athletic program.

“Coach Khali pushed us to do well in school,” she says. “He always pushed us to take the tutors seriously and to appreciate the opportunities we were fortunate enough to have.”

“Her grades improved with her tutor,” adds Zoe’s dad, Darryl. “She liked everything that was going on at the boxing gym. She liked the atmosphere there. She likes structure.”

Zoe says she will never forget her tutor, Ms. Brittany, who spent hours working with her one-on-one so she could master algebra II. She’s also grateful for her parents who supported her desire to attend the boxing gym and bought her boxing gloves and shoes.

Future Plans

Zoe plans to study kinesiology, or exercise science, with the goal of becoming a physical therapist. She also has other big plans; she dreams of someday opening her own nonprofit after-school program for children in Detroit – as a way of paying it forward.

“A lot of people I grew up with – if their circumstances were different, they wouldn’t be in jail or their lives would be different,” she says. “If they were shown something other than what they were used to, they could have been something. I want to provide that opportunity for more students.”

Congratulations, Zoe! Your Downtown Boxing Gym family wishes you a bright and winning future ahead!

In the Driver’s Seat

Van Drivers Wanted!

The Downtown Boxing Gym is seeking responsible, experienced, part-time van drivers to safely transport our students to and from our program in our 15-passenger vans.

Getting our students safely to and from our program is one of our top priorities! The Downtown Boxing Gym is seeking van drivers to work approximately 20 hours per week, all year round, at a rate of $15 per hour. You’ll have the option of picking up additional field trip shifts.
The routes change slightly each day, but generally remain consistent. You’ll be picking up 14 students from home and/or school beginning at 2:30 p.m. and bringing them to the gym. You’ll transport them home beginning at 7:00 p.m.
You MUST have a Michigan Chauffeur’s License and a clean driving record. You must be at least 25 years old. Experience driving passenger vans is preferred, as is experience working with students ages 8-18 years old. Drivers must be reliable, flexible, trustworthy, have good communication skills with both Downtown Boxing Gym staff and families, and enjoy working with students.

Interested and meet all of our qualifications? Apply HERE today!

Framing Our Space

Good Fences, Good Neighbors!

The Downtown Boxing Gym’s outdoor space is now secured with a new 6-foot commercial grade chain-link fence, thanks to the generosity of American Fence & Supply Co. in Warren. They donated and installed the fence as a gift to the gym and the community.

The next time you ride past the Downtown Boxing Gym, take a look at what’s transforming our yard along E. Vernor Highway. The incredible donation of a fence that not only frames and secures our lawn, it serves as a valuable asset for our entire initiative. We are immensely grateful.

“It is an extraordinary thing that Coach Khali and his team are doing with the students at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” said Michael Daniels, a spokesperson for American Fence. “They’re taking these kids and giving them the tools, knowledge, resources, and support needed for a better chance at life. We are thrilled to play a part in this effort by providing the fence and securing the space for the gym’s outdoor programming.”

American Fence is a 25-year-old business that has been working in the city of Detroit since its inception. Owner Len DiGrande was born and raised on 8 Mile and Woodward, the son of a Jewish mother from Detroit and an Italian immigrant father. Len learned early on about the incredible power of sales. He is also committed to giving back the community and providing superior customer service.

“We try to do meaningful work and give where we can. With the Downtown Boxing Gym, it wasn’t ‘if’ but ‘when’ we’d help,” Daniels says. “We see organizations like the boxing gym as active agents for change in a city with so much potential.”

American Fence also helps to facilitate the beautification and redevelopment of Detroit. Recent projects include DuCharme Place and the new Under Armour and John Varvatos stores downtown.

In addition to the protection and sense of security our new fence provides, it also puts the finishing touch on our yard where we will do gardening work and host outdoor activities all spring and summer long. From all of us at the Downtown Boxing Gym, thank you American Fence & Supply Co. for your donation and commitment to the city. Good fences do make good neighbors!

Expanding Our Horizons

Boxing Gym and Hillel Hold Multicultural Seder

A non-traditional Passover seder took place recently at the Downtown Boxing Gym, bringing students from different cultures and communities together.

They sat together to break (unleavened) bread, learn about Jewish customs and traditions, and ultimately to discover how much they have in common. About two dozen teenagers from Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills traveled to the Downtown Boxing Gym – with matzo and other traditional foods in tow – for a Passover seder unlike any other with their boxing gym peers.

“I’ve never been part of a seder at a boxing gym. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty darn cool,” said Rabbi Harold Loss of Temple Israel, who officiated. “I think it’s great that you guys are participating in this kind of program. Good for you!”

Loss did not expect to be at the boxing gym that day. In fact, the seder was not even supposed to happen there. The event was scheduled to take place at Hillel, but a power outage at the school that morning threatened to derail the entire program. It was the Hillel students, who had the day off, that pushed to re-arrange the plans and hold the seder at the gym instead. Parents and school officials scrambled to make it happen, packing up all the supplies and providing transportation from the suburbs to the city. Loss got a last-minute call to participate and dropped what he was doing to be there.

Rabbi Harold Loss leads the seder

“I think it’s important to bring kids together and have them realize they have more similarities than differences,” said Jessica Hauser, the boxing gym’s executive director. “I think it’s really just about breaking down those false barriers that we put up for ourselves.”

There were several activities designed to get the students talking and working together. Instead of the traditional “four questions” children ask in Hebrew during a seder, the teens were told to turn to whoever was seated next to them and ask their neighbor four questions to get to know each other better.

“I love to meet new and different kinds of people,” said 8th grader Julia Klein.

“I met one girl, we have the same birthday,” added 13-year-old Reynard. “I have never been to a seder before. It’s always good to learn new things.”

The boxing gym students also made seder plates depicting their interests and passions. Later, the children worked together to build pyramids by stacking red plastic cups. The catch? The had to use a rubber band contraption to stack the cups without touching them with their hands. The fun challenge had everyone laughing and coming up with creative solutions together.

“I love that we can share our cultures,” said Hillel principal Melissa Michaelson. “It’s heartwarming.”

As the rabbi explained the Passover story and the reasons behind the seder and its many symbols, he highlighted the slavery to freedom history both the African American and Jewish communities share.

“Anyone who has that history should be most concerned about creating a world where no one ever has to experience that again,” he said.

Airbnb at the DBG!

The Downtown Boxing Gym is an Airbnb Experience

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is proud to be part of Airbnb’s unique program called “Trips.” Guests can visit our gym and test their skills in the boxing ring.

Khali training with a Downtown Boxing Gym student. Photo Credit: Katie Alexis Photography

San Francisco-based Airbnb wants you to experience Detroit (and so do we) by immersing yourself in our community and visiting local organizations like ours for an unforgettable experience that’s distinctly Detroit. Visitors can sign up for a training session and tour of the Downtown Boxing Gym through the Airbnb app or website. The company enables travelers to rent private homes and rooms in cities around the world. They plan to double their economic impact in Detroit to $20 million in 2017.

“We’ll meet just before the kids get out of school, and I’ll tell you about our founding story and mission,” our founder and CEO Khali Sweeney is quoted as saying on the Airbnb website. “Then it’s time for us to train – right in one of our rings. Once the kids are all in, we’ll wrap up our training lesson so I can focus on mentoring. You can stay to watch our program in action – and even try out some of your moves.”

Click here to learn more about the Downtown Boxing Gym experience and sign up or share the link with friends!

To participate, visitors just click on the link (above) to sign up for the $59, two-hour training session with Khali. 100% of proceeds go to the Downtown Boxing Gym. All guests must be 18 old older.

Airbnb launched its Trips platform along with its app in November. Detroit is one of the first cities to participate along with Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul.

“We are thrilled to have this partnership with Airbnb which helps out of town guests learn more about our program and see firsthand the important work we’re doing with Detroit students,” says our executive director Jessica Hauser. “It’s fun, too! We welcome anyone to try it.”

The Good Fight!

Dynamic Duo Visits Downtown Boxing Gym

The Fight 2 Fight program, created by the husband and wife team of singer/songwriter Brynn Marie and boxer Josh ‘The Handsome Hitman’ Himes, fuses music and boxing together. The duo is committed to using music and sports collectively to empower “everyday fighters.”


Fight 2 Fight visits the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, February 2017

An entrance or “walk-out” song gives a boxer the motivation they need before entering the ring. Music can also inspire people for a fight outside the ring. Brynn and Josh recently visited the Downtown Boxing Gym to share their innovative program with our students.

“Josh and I were so excited to empower the kids at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” Brynn said. “Fight 2 Fight fuels the importance of education, fighting for dreams and sharing our love of music.”

Everyone’s a Fighter

The motto of Fight 2 Fight is that everyone is a fighter, no matter what obstacle they may face. Brynn and Josh believe that, every day, we stand face to face with a fight. Fight 2 Fight encourages everyone to come together and support each other’s daily battles.

When they first met, Brynn admits she knew nothing about boxing. But it didn’t take long to realize that she and Josh had a lot in common. They each had to work their way up in their respective industries. Josh had 43 amateur fights before turning professional.

They started out in Nashville working with various charities and have since continued in places around the country and even internationally. The program features Brynn performing uplifting music and a brief boxing lesson by Josh.

Detroit Talent Shines

After talking with our students and getting to know more about them, Brynn performed her song “Phoenix,” the fight anthem song for Fight 2 Fight. Some of the talented students from our gym jumped in on the piano and drums to accompany Brynn during her performance.

Josh then talked about his boxing career and the obstacles he’s had to overcome. The experience left quite an impression.

“I love how the Downtown Boxing Gym stresses books before boxing,” Josh said. “Study hard and get rewarded with boxing. It’s an incredible concept that’s making an impact. The students welcomed us with open arms.”

Click here to learn more about Fight2Fight.
Click here to support the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

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Upward Bound!

Boxing Gym Student Pursuing UCLA

Not every ninth grader has a clear vision of what his/her future looks like. But Kalonnie isn’t your typical ninth grader. He wants to attend UCLA and major in graphic engineering. And with the help of the Downtown Boxing Gym and the Horizons Upward Bound (HUB) program, he’s well on his way.

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Kalonnie flashes a winning smile at the Downtown Boxing Gym computer lab

HUB is a program through Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills that prepares students from the Detroit metro area to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. Students receive academic support that helps them pursue and achieve their goals and dreams. HUB offers enrichment activities, college readiness preparation, and extra help with high school coursework.

Not only does HUB help students graduate from high school and get into the college of their choice, it also provides them support once they’re in college.

While the program offers students like Kalonnie an incredible opportunity, it requires a lot of dedication, determination, and above all, discipline. Participants attend classes 3 Saturdays a month. Once they’ve completed their freshman year of high school, students take part in a 6-week summer residential phase at Cranbrook.

Downtown Boxing Gym Connection

Kalonnie first found out about HUB through the Downtown Boxing Gym. When he learned more about the program, he knew this was something he wanted to do.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” Kalonnie said.

Brenda Gatlin serves as the Academic Dean of Students for HUB. She says Kalonnie’s demeanor from the beginning indicated he was exactly the type of student they were looking for.

“He seemed ready, focused, and able, “ Ms. Gatlin recalls.

Kalonnie had to write an essay about why he wanted to be selected for the program. Of the more than 100 applicants, 45 were selected. And Kalonnie was one of them.

“I was shell-shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Winning Foundation

Life as a high school student and a HUB student has been an adjustment. But Kalonnie is succeeding thanks in part to those around him. He says the Downtown Boxing Gym’s Khali Sweeney has been one of his biggest supporters, and so has his mom.

“It gives me so much inspiration. I’m doing this for myself and for her,” Kalonnie says.

Brenda Gatlin credits Kalonnie’s mother with giving him the foundation to succeed.

“When you have that parental support, that’s half the battle. His mother is such a supportive entity in his life.”

Thanks to the opportunities provided to him by the Dowtown Boxing Gym and HUB, Kalonnie’s mother also has a clear vision of the future. Seeing her son become a first-generation college graduate.

“I see my son walking across the stage at UCLA,” she says. “I see it. “

To support the Downtown Boxing Gym, click here. To learn more about the HUB program, click here.



Meeting the Challenge!

Challenge Detroit Unveils Outdoor Plans

The sky’s the limit as Challenge Detroit fellows share their innovative ideas for our outdoor space at the Downtown Boxing Gym.


Challenge Detroit unveils plans for the long-term growth of the Downtown Boxing Gym’s outdoor space

Imagine a running track that flows from inside to outside. Imagine a butterfly garden for students to get closer to nature. Imagine an outdoor learning space for science projects in the warm spring and summer months. These are just some of the creative ideas specially designed for the Downtown Boxing Gym by a program called Challenge Detroit.

Challenge Detroit is a fellowship program that brings together innovative, community-minded thinkers to dream big for our city. Since its inception 5 years ago, Challenge Detroit has served more than 40 local non-profit organizations. Add the Detroit Boxing Gym to the growing list!

“We really believe in the mission of the boxing gym,” says program director Shelley Danner. “We truly believe it’s important to develop our youth – they are the future of our city.”

Ready, Set – Grow!

At the start of the challenge, the fellows visited the gym to see firsthand what our program is all about. Coach Khali Sweeney spoke and the fellows got to meet some of the students in our free, after-school program. The impact was immediate and profound.

Khali has always dreamt of having a functional and fun outdoor space for the students at our gym, a clean, safe place where they can learn and play. Thanks to the hard work done by the fellows from Challenge Detroit, Khali’s dream now has a vision and a blueprint.

The “Green Space Activation” challenge sought to create a space our children can enjoy while also providing a greater variety of educational opportunities and activities. The goal was also to connect this space to the community and the surrounding neighborhood. With that in mind, the fellows spent a great deal of time speaking not only with our students, staff and volunteers, but with the community.

A crowd gathers at the Downtown Boxing Gym for Challenge Detroit's presentation

A crowd gathers at the Downtown Boxing Gym for Challenge Detroit’s presentation

Team Approach

The Challenge Detroit fellows worked in 4 teams: seasonal programming, community, sustainability, and long-term growth. At the end of the 5-week program, they unveiled their concepts during a February 17, 2017 presentation at the boxing gym. The program included renderings and implementation plans, which will help guide the Downtown Boxing Gym’s leaders as we look to turn these concepts into reality.

“What’s most important to us is that the work that our fellows do on these projects, the ideas they generate, will be tangible, useable, and implementable, “ Danner said. “It’s a collective community idea. That’s what excites me and energizes me. My hope is this accelerates bringing that space to life.”

Want to help implement Challenge Detroit’s creative ideas? Champion a Child.
Donate today to support our efforts.

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