AKRON - 34-year-old Geno Toney saw the possible in the most unlikely of places…behind bars.
It’s a dream that started with one kid and grew into Dream Team Boxing in Akron.
The dream was to mold young lives in ways his hadn't been.
Now Toney is planting seeds of hope and watching good kids grow strong against the odds.
“I became a champion! I started off bony, and I got strong!," says 12 year old Travell Fain as he flexes a muscle and sports a smile that goes for miles.
At the Akron Dream Team Boxing gym, bring the body, and the good stuff kind of "strong" follows.
“My heart and my soul!," Fain continues.
Finding then 8-year-old Travell Fain 4 years ago in a gym, was Geno's saving grace.
Other parents wanted in on how he was transforming Travelle.
“I started off with a store front and within 9 months we outgrew it and we had to look for a bigger space.”
Geno now has dozens of gems…like him, diamonds in the rough.
He says he sees himself in each and every one of them.
Especially in his own young son who he was just awarded custody of out of a foster home in Las Vegas.
A former drug dealer. Turning the tide. Making good.
“I just show and prove and keep it pure in my heart and tach these kids early what I learned late.” Says Toney.
It's a good FIT.
Watching them one has to wonder, who rescued who?
“They love me. I love them. I want to see them do good. They want to see me do good,” says Toney.
They run solely on donations, sometimes selling bottles of water for whatever good hearted supporters want to offer.
That’s how they met Shilp Shah, their now tutor and mentor volunteer. They were trying to sell him a bottle of water.
“I looked online and realized immediately it was so much more than boxing,” says Shah.
Shah wanted to share in the good stuff growing at Dream Team Boxing and volunteers now, molding young minds as an academic tutor.
“I think I can make a difference here…help these kids get to where they want to go,” says Shah.
“We go by the code "show and prove" and that’s what we have been doing. We show and prove so the community sees we are serious and they help out,” says Toney.
Wally Smith built the whole boxing bag framework contraption.
“My son was in the streets, making bad decisions. Every night for a year he went and worked out with Geno and it saved his life.” Says Smith.
It’s more than boards holding up boxing bags.
Wally and his now sober son are part of the foundation of this place where happy productive, grounded lives are taking root.
“I did it to give back,” said Smith.
It all seems to be working, this pay it forward mojo that this ex-con started.
Fain smiles ear to ear when asked how it feels to earn the stash of medals that hang around his neck and a 2016 Silver Gloves Championship belt.
“I feel great, because it took a lot of hard work to get here,” says Fain.
Same goes for 9-year-old Alonzo Sykes.
“I come in here. I work hard and I don’t play around, and I have a good life,” says Sykes.
It all started with a little guy, who a former bad guy took a chance on, and he's been building up little lives with big potential ever since.
Now Toney wants to build Dream Teams up from Akron Ohio across the country.
He says, “with dudes like me who came home from prison but we share the same heart. Show them how investing in kids keeps you focused because it worked for me!"
This dreamer who became a doer, being the change he wanted to see.
Seeing The Possible, and making it happen, one young life at a time.
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