St. Barnabas boxing program lands punch in ongoing battle to keep youth off the streets

ByAnthony Carlo WABC logo
Saturday, July 29, 2023
Bronx hospital boxing program changing lives 1 punch at a time
With every punch, the St. Barnabas Hospital boxing program looks to prevent another young life from being reduced to just a mural. Anthony Carlo has the story.

BELMONT, Bronx (WABC) -- For years community groups have turned to the sport of boxing to keep at-risk youth out of trouble in the streets, including a new program in the Bronx.

Sweltering summer heat and the pains of life may be beating people up, but inside St. Barnabas Hospital's fitness center, young men are hitting back with everything they've got.

"I keep coming because I want to be better," program participant David Helena said. "I'm not going to stop being better."

Helena made a decision to skip out on street life.

"Instead of picking up a gun or a knife you pick up some boxing gloves," SBH Health System community coordinator Amanda Martinez said.

He's one of several young men spending their Friday night handling their problems with gloves on at the fitness center. Their coach is in their corner.

"Boxing changed my life. Boxing took me off the streets. Boxing transitioned my life for the better the same way I'm doing for these kids," coach Joel Castillo said.

Castillo survived gunshot wounds and stab wounds, the same thing that brought many of this program's participants into the ER. That's where they learned about the weekly boxing class hosted by SBH Health System and Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence.

"I could have a bad day but once I work out, it like all goes away," said one participant.

As much good as this program may do, the battle is ongoing in and out of the ring. No matter how hard they fight to straighten their lives out, there's not always a winner.

"We actually had two participants who were part of the program last year and unfortunately passed away due to gun violence and they were in the program, they were consistent," Martinez said.

With every punch, the program looks to prevent another young life from being reduced to just a mural.

"Today I'm a different man than I was before, I finally did the change I wanted to," Helena said.


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