'Gloves Not Guns' program investing in at-risk youth, spreading anti-violence message

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - As summer break gets closer, a new program is taking shape to steer kids away from trouble.

It's a direct response to murders and violence involving teens happening in and around Cleveland.

Damien Parker is the organizer of 'Gloves Not Guns.' The program will be offering a full year of boxing and mixed martial arts training for children.

Parker said too many kids are missing a sense of family, and he doesn't want them turning to gangs, drugs or guns.

He's tired of seeing murders and videos of teens fighting going viral.

Parker joined forces with Old School Iron Gym in Brook Park and DNA Level C Boxing Club in Cleveland to offer the scholarships. His friends John Mcginnis, TJ Slomka, and Ra'Sheen Ali have joined the effort.

"You can get that same sense of family- that same sense of community in a place like this (boxing club)," Parker said. "Here you're strengthening your body (and) you're strengthening your mind. These instructors will tell you the biggest part about learning how to box or learning anything MMA related is learning self-control."

The group is raising money to initially put two kids through training. The money will cover the students' instruction time, gear, meals and transportation. The goal is to expand and provide scholarships to more children in the future.

"I ran the streets. I hung with gangs. I carried guns and all that," said John Mcginnis, a striking coach at Old School Iron Gym.

A transformation started when a Taekwondo instructor got a hold of Mcginnis as a teen. By the time he was 21, Mcginnis was on a solid road to success. He wants to be that same change agent in his community.

"I want to make these teens be proud of themselves," Mcginnis said.

Donations will help provide the 'Gloves Not Guns' scholarships. May 14 there's a fundraiser at Old School Iron Gym featuring music, games and boxing and mixed martial arts demonstrations. Tickets are $10.

Parker said being relatable is the group's strongest asset.

"You get through to them (kids) more by talking to them and not talking at them," Parker said. "And that's something a lot of people miss."

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