CLEVELAND -- Some teenagers find a path to trouble while trying to find love and acceptance.
John McGinnis understands that because growing up wasn’t always easy for him.
"In my teenager years, I was a troubled teen,” McGinnis said. “I ran the streets, I caused trouble, I carried guns, I ran with gangs."
It wasn’t until McGinnis found himself in the gym at 18 years old that things turned around.
It’s a similar story with Damien Parker, as an adult tragedy struck before he realized that a child’s life can change in an instant.
"He was in a juvenile facility, named Artwon Oliver,” Parker said. “He was released from the facility against my recommendation and a few weeks later he was murdered in Cleveland Heights."
Both men, now boxing instructors, have decided to use their skills to teach kids before it’s too late.
"We want to give them a positive place where they can strengthen their mind, strengthen their body, do something good with themselves and still have that sense of family,” Parker said.
This new program in Cleveland has plans to reach kids who are misunderstood and give them a place to work out their issues.
“Gloves not Guns” is designed to take kids off the street and show them a different way to handle their issues.
"We're going to select two kids, those kids are going to get their training paid for in either boxing or MMA, we'll buy all of their gear,” Parker said. “The goal is to pay for one meal a day per day of training and for transportation.”
"It's all about teaching these kids how to better themselves, not to just become a product of their environment,” McGinnis said.
The anti-violence initiative is as much about self-defense as it is about discipline.
"If they understand what they can actually do to a person, it'll change their thought process as to how they conduct themselves in the street,” McGinnis said.
Their first fundraiser will be on May 14th, Mother’s Day. For information on how to get involved, visit their Facebook page.
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