‘It’s a safe place’: Indigenous youth boxing program fights to stay open in Nanaimo

'It's a safe place': Indigenous youth boxing program fights to stay open in Nanaimo
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Smiling behind gritted teeth and landing powerful punches at a Nanaimo boxing ring, 14-year-old Nanaimo girl Georgia Johnson said the sport’s revealed a power she never knew she had.

“Kind of feel like a different person boxing at my age,” said Johnson.

Her sparring partners on her all-Indigenous youth boxing team agrees.

“Oh I love it, especially the feeling of getting hit and dodging,” said 22-year-old Nanaimo resident Trent Jack.

“It makes you feel amazing,” said 13-year-old Nanaimo resident Kiana Peter.

“It’s really helped with my mental health,” said 18-year-old Nanaimo resident Izeyah Johnson.

“It’s a safe place, it’s family. You know it’s their happy place,” said Ivy Richardson, Coach of Team 700.

Now, the Nanaimo-based Team 700 is in jeopardy.

The all-Indigenous youth competitive boxing team — which started in 2019 with the goal of offering coaching and camaraderie to keep kids off the streets — suddenly lost its funding.

“June 30th we were told that effective immediately our funding was cut, our fees were due the next day so it put us in a bit of a hard spot, but we’re fighters that’s why we’re here so we’re not stopping,” said Richardson.

Georgia Johnson told CHEK News she doesn’t know what she’ll do without it.

“Because I love boxing so much I don’t want anything to affect it,” said Johnson.

“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity,” added Peter.

So the team has scrambled to find new sponsorship, to keep training, and take on tournaments once Covid-19 restrictions ease. It has started a fundraising page to get them through the immediate months ahead.

Coach Ivy Richardson said she sees her younger self in every one of the athletes and knows the power of sport can change a life.

“For me, it was about finding my power and taking it back,” she said.

So Team 700’s 10 determined athletes plan to fight together to fill their need for funds.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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