A boxing program focused on reducing violence and gang activity in Roanoke by teaching young people discipline and empathy has found its new home.
Boxing and Brawling, which operates a youth program called Boxfit, has a lease with the city. Beginning January 8th, program founder and former fighter Ratley Woodbury, who lives in Roanoke, will begin hosting activities at the Norwich Park Centre.
“It was a process,” Woodbury said at the center on Thursday. I just got here because my relationship with Champs Gym had just fallen apart.
In May, Boxfit opened at Champs Gym in southeast Roanoke. In June, Woodbury moved the program to various parks around the city to train young students outdoors.
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“We did Washington, we did Wasena, we did Eureka. We did it all,” said the director. “Mostly, we were focused on Washington Park because we serve a lot of the children in Lincoln Village, but ultimately the relationship with the kids there and the kids in the neighborhood. Washington Park was our second home.”
In mid-December, Roanoke City Council approved a program lease for the Norwich Park facility beginning January 1st. About 40 to his 50 young people are currently enrolled in the Box Fit program, according to Woodbury. Annual enrollments typically tend to approach 100, but some have left the ring without the facility.
As the program toured the city’s parks over the summer, Woodbury said he lost one of his Box Fit participants to suicide.
“It was a huge loss, not just for our program, but for our family, everyone,” said the coach. Because of that loss, he wants his one room in the Norwich building to be filled with a counseling service for box-fit young people.
“We want to have a space where kids can come in and sit with a counselor, maybe a licensed counselor, or sit and talk to a mom who has lost a child and prevent that from happening.” Woodbury said. she said.
“As a coach, I listen to it all the time, but I’m no pro. It’s great to have another ear. Someone just sits there and if the kid has a problem , they can come. You can talk to them in peace.”
In another space, Woodberry wants to give program participants a space to do their homework after school.
“Whatever the problem is that is holding back schoolwork, we can address it,” said Woodbury. “Then we can get that reinforcement here as well.”
Woodbury has partnered with other non-profit youth boxing organizations in Danville, Lexington, Charlottesville and other cities in North Carolina to develop the “Champions of Character” boxing tournament circuit .
“We have eight teams on this. Every two or three months, we either play a game here or we go to a game,” Woodbury said.
The coach said that the circuit concentrates on building the character of the participants, while the competitive league focuses on training and success in the ring.
“I’ve been in those kinds of programs, but seeing that there was a need for this structure in my community, I have the Champions of Character circuit. Unless I’m good, I’m not going to fight unless I’m doing well at home,” Woodbury said. “Because boxing is first in my mind, but secondary. At work, it’s secondary.”
Woodbury said his program encouraged teenage female rappers and trained “the men who are still the top fighters in the region.” Still, he believes his program is most successful when young people are motivated to make good decisions.
“These kids can’t be part of this particular thing going on in their neighborhood, and they can’t be part of this afterward.” Or if you can choose this over drugs and stealing, I’ll take them all day free. It was some of the stuff that bothered me. I’m glad my wife is with me. I’ll take my time.”
Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lee is proud of the progress Woodbury and his wife have made in the last year and hopes the nonprofit will grow.
“We want people like this to be motivated to help children, and that’s very important,” Lea said Friday. I want to congratulate him on his job, on him and his family, on what they had to carry alone.
Lea said the city council continues to discuss other ways it can support the Boxfit program, possibly through additional funding from the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission.
In the spring, Woodbury applied for a “mini-grant” through the commission, which was awarded to Boxing and Brawling for use in youth programming. This grant was put on hold.
Commission chair and city council member Joe Cobb said the Woodbury program’s non-profit status was a “community effort.”
“I think one of the biggest challenges for them as an organization is getting community support. We kind of look to the board to help us find additional avenues for funding, whether it’s grant-based funding,” Cobb said Thursday.
“We are certainly excited about their progress. think.”
According to Woodberry, the annual rent for the Norwich facility is $4,800. However, the program requires a boxing ring and equipment, and the funding goal he raises to $10,500.
Boxing and Brawling accept programming donations through online fundraising platforms such as GoFundMe, Cash App and PayPal. Plus, you can purchase sponsorships that include business logo placement on the boxing ring canvas or corner posts, and social media promotion.
“We have a fundraising template. “But we need $10,500 to operate, so we can get the equipment and facilities.”
The Boxfit program has served approximately 200 Roanoke youth aged 7 to 17 over the past two years. On December 19, Boxing and Brawling won Roanoke’s ‘Neighborhood Youth Volunteer Award’ for 2020 to his 2022.
But Woodbury believes the Boxfit program can do more.
“I want to talk less and do more. This program is outstanding. We developed it to be stimulating and a good exchange for children.” , there is definitely a program, all you need is resources.”
Lee hopes the public will support the program when they learn that it is having a positive impact on the city’s youth.
“We hope that citizens will say, ‘This is a great opportunity, a program that we can financially support,’ and want to contribute something,” the mayor said. “The program has a vision.” In the meantime, we’re going to do everything we can to keep it going.”
“I’m thrilled they have the space,” Cobb said. “I certainly would love to see them continue to be successful. Focus on creating a mindset that focuses on health, emotional health, and how all of this pivots.Focusing your energy on positive outcomes instead of negative outcomes, these I think the program is really important.”
“The main thing we offer is a place to participate and feel included, gain confidence, be safe, build good relationships, interact with each other, empathize, and then boxing,” Wood said. Berry said, “I am like a big brother and a father to my children. If you can wear that hat, you can.”