LYNCHBURG, Va. – Nine-year-old Payton Haythe is the only girl in this boxing gym and very new to the sport. She stands out amongst the others.
It’s more than just the moves she and other children at Eastern Front Gym are learning throughout the week. Her mother, Nakia Haythe, said the jabs and discipline learned in the ring will help keep her daughter away from the violence on the streets.
“(There’s) not a lot of positive things going on in Lynchburg, and when it’s nothing to do, kids find themselves getting in trouble, and I don’t want that for my kids or any kid,” Haythe said.
Payton and some of these children live in the neighborhoods where Lynchburg has seen four homicides this year. The most recent one was last Wednesday, when a 25-year-old man died.
The coaches, Darnell Brown and Breon Rucker, say they want to teach everyone from 8-year-olds to young adults essential tools when outside of the ring.
“Instead of taking your anger out on the streets, you can just come to the gym and hit the bag. That helps kids release their anger,” Brown said.
“A lot of people are quick to pull a gun, are quick to use a weapon when first it could be talked out,” Rucker said.
Holding back his tears, Rucker said his gym has changed some lives. Receiving the call from a parent thanking him for keeping their children from falling through the ropes is the least he can do.
“And that kind of touches you. And it gives you the motivation as a coach to keep going and to keep pushing, because at least if I don’t have 20, I have that one that I’m reaching and that one person will change,” Rucker said