By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Hales Franciscan High School held a “Knockout Gala Reception” and boxing matches Saturday, Oct. 27, to raise funds for its Olympic sports after-school program for at-risk youth.
Spurred by youth violence, a soaring dropout rate and the youth unemployment problem, Hales, 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave., created an after-school and summer camp Olympics sports, academic, and mentoring program for boys ages 10 to 18. The program, which will be called the Hales B.M.W. program, will offer boxing, martial arts and wrestling to provide a safe haven for youth not currently participating in popular athletics such as basketball and football.
“The school felt it should do its part to help combat violence,” said Fr. George Clements, co-chair of the event and former Hales Franciscan board member, in a written statement. “Sports is the hook, but the program also includes mentoring and academics.”
Clements said he got the idea for the program and fundraiser from a 2012 University of Chicago study, “Becoming A Man – Sports Edition,” that surveyed almost 1,300 7th and 9th graders from the city’s South and West Sides. Many of the students, who attended 13 sports program sessions, had arrest records, missed more than six weeks of class and had a grade point average of D-plus. After completing the program, arrests plunged, attendance improved and they were passing their classes.
The boxing enthusiast also noticed that the U.S. Olympic team experienced some success in wrestling but the U.S. boxing team did not fare as well, failing to secure any medals in London. He believes the Hales program can revive the popularity of boxing in cities like Chicago, and build a pipeline for up and coming boxers to participate in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
For more information on how to make donations or sign up for the program call Hales Franciscan High School at 773-285-8400.