By Michel Nolan, The Sun
The program, a safe-haven that provides life-lessons and changes lives, was founded by Ian in 1999, offering at-risk kids 8-17 a support system while helping them to become positive, contributing members of the community.
The nonprofit provides a variety of athletic programs, including the popular boxing program, F.I.G.H.T.S. (Faith In God Heals Troubled Souls).
The premise is straight-forward and well-rounded.
Fighting Chance is free to all and is funded by donations and sponsorship's.
Using amateur boxing, as well as other athletics, healthy eating, vocational training, community service, education and counseling services, the program has helped about 4,000 youth since its inception, raising confidence and self-esteem in youth.
“Some of the participants come just for the camaraderie,” he said of the program that also offers healthy snacks and a meal before kids leave,
“Some of them even come just to eat, I think.”
In 2008, the program sent its first athlete to the Olympic Games in Beijing.
One of many achievements
for Fighting Chance athletes.
• Award-winning athletes from the boxing program have competed in major tournaments,including The Golden Gloves, District, State Nationals competitions:
• The National PAL (athlete won in ’05)
• Ringside world championships (athlete won in ’05 and ’06)
• USA Boxing District, regional and nationals (runner-up in the finals of nationals in ’10).
“We are the only club in California to have an athlete in the last two Olympic team trials — Houston, Texas, 2007 and Mobile, Alabama, 2011,” Ian said.
But the club is about more than just boxing — it’s about character, integrity, a spiritual core,
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet some of the young people in the program, young men and ladies who would grip your hand firmly, look you in the eye, say they were glad to meet you and sound like they meant it.
Most of these kids were “hanging out on the streets” when Ian found them.
Now they have a structured after-school activity they enjoy and look forward to.
There were lots of smiles.
“We try not to make it like a drill sergeant thing but like family here. When other kids play on skateboards, these kids are at home here. Even kids who were enemies on the streets are now friends, on the same team.”
Maurice Williams of San Bernardino assists Ian with the boxing program. Maurice has two sons in Fighting Chance and his daughter helps prepare the meal trays.
“The kids learned some carpentry, even helping to build their own boxing ring,” Maurice said. “They have fun. Sometimes on weekends they’ll go to Valley College to run and sometimes I’ll barbecue, just to give them a family feeling.”
The 25-35 kids participating in the program each have a compelling story.
Cristian Perez, 16, of San Bernardino, is a student at Redlands East Valley High School, who is also taking classes at Crafton Hills College.
He rides his skateboard to Fighting Chance, which is located near the San Bernardino Airport.
Cristian said he loves the sport of boxing because you have to learn to depend on yourself.
Maurice’s son, Trenton Williams, 13, said he likes that the boxing program gets kids off the street.
“We refine their strengths and challenge their weakness to make them a better athlete and an even better human being,” Ian said.
Board member, La Quetta Bush-Simmons said an integral part of what the program does is one-on-one with the kids.
“Kids are not invisible to us,” she said. “Often, people can’t see kids on the fringe of society. We hold them accountable for their actions, however, we understand they are the result of our actions and are acting out because of our society.”
Ian said he looks forward to being part of the solution, finding out where these kids are at and then walk with them — without being judgmental.
“When you are surrounded by negativity, you can go down a dark path,” he said.
Funding comes from the city of San Bernardino’s Community Development Block Grant, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Community Foundation of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.
But more donations and sponsorship's are desperately needed if the program is to survive.
They could really use a van to pick up kids who don’t have other transportation.
“I really feel my program can do a lot of good, save a lot of lives,” Ian said.
To donate, or help in any way, check out their website, www.projectfightingchance.org
These kids deserve a fighting chance.
Michel Nolan appears in The Sun on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MichelNolan.
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FOUNDATION SPOTLIGHT: Project Fighting Chance
Working in economically challenged neighborhoods in San Bernardino, Project Fighting Chance teaches children self-esteem, discipline and the idea that everyone can become a champion.
Ian Franklin, the group’s CEO and president, knows what it is like to grow up underprivileged and under duress. Growing up in San Bernardino, he describes himself as an angry boy who was often in trouble and struggling with the challenge of growing up interracial. However, he found a positive outlet in boxing. As a father, he wanted his own children to have a positive place to focus their energy and began teaching his oldest son how to box in their garage.
It was not long before Franklin found himself teaching many of the neighborhood children and forming F.I.G.H.T.S., a boxing ministry, which aimed to encourage and stimulate mental growth in youth while teaching the rewards of dedication and hard work. This ultimately grew into Project Fighting Chance.
Today, the group runs F.I.G.H.T.S. as well as its other programming out of the Perris Hill Park facility in San Bernardino. The organization also offers vocational training, mentoring and Ladies Life Skills, but boxing remains at its heart.
“At least for two hours every day they can feel good about themselves and good about what they are doing,” Franklin said.
Some of the participants come just for the camaraderie, he said of the program that also offers healthy snacks to the kids. “Some of them even come just to eat, I think,” he said.
The skills that the children learn through boxing also carry over into other life success, including their school work.
“We hold them accountable,” Franklin said. “I don’t care if you just made the national championships, if there is a deficit in your academics, we have a problem. The kids in the program know that I have access to their teachers and principals.”
Franklin is proud of the fact that the program supports two of the most outstanding 10-year-olds in the state. “Terrible” Terry Washington, with a State title and several Outstanding Boxer Awards, remains undefeated.
“I’ve been around the sport since I was a little boy and I’ve never seen anyone like him,” Franklin said.
Another star is Isaiah Aguilar who also has a state title. Although Isaiah lost two out of his first three bouts when he first began fighting, he’s now at 15 wins to 1 loss.
“Isaiah is the epitome of never giving up and always believing that you can get better and now he’s at the top of his game,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t matter where you start; it matters where you finish.”
The group is always looking for support for the children in the program, especially for those who are competing in tournaments. Competing requires paying for hotel, travel, and sometimes airfare, which isn’t an expense the families can afford. Recently the group received support from the Youth Grantmakers Fund through The Community Foundation and Franklin is hoping that more of the community will consider helping these children follow their dreams.
“I don’t want to look a kid in the eye and say, ‘You’ve earned the right to be there, but I can’t get you there champ,” Franklin said.
Franklin believes that these opportunities teach children to have hope for a strong future and to fight for it.
“Everyone who comes through the door wants to be a champion and we have kids who have realized their dreams, but there is a lot of hard work and dedication that is involved in any dream,” Franklin said. “Whether you want to be a doctor or a boxer, you have to roll up your sleeves and work hard for it.”
For more information about Project Fighting Chance visit projectfightingchance.org or call 909-496-6029.
The Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy. The foundation does that by raising, stewarding and distributing community assets, working toward their vision of a vibrant, generous and just region—with unlimited opportunities. The foundation has a renewed focus on building its endowment to ensure that it is here for good. Information: 951-241-7777 or email@example.com.
Two New Stars out of the Project Fighting Chance Camp, trained by Ian Franklin... March 2015
"Terrible Terry" does it again at the "Silver Gloves State Championships"! Also received the "Outstanding Boxer Award" December 2014What's next for this young star... the sky is the limit... WE appreciate your support in helping terry realize his dream
Recognized at City Council (left)Terry with Former Dodger MLB Player of the Derrel Thomas Foundation (right) Terry (below)
Once again Terry is taking California's amateur boxing circuit by storm. He won the Blue and Gold tournament and for the second time won the outstanding boxer award. Give it up for San Bernardino's next superstar. We are looking for sponsors as well as donations to get this young prodigy to the Nationals.
Alternatives through Athletics
10 year old 55 lb. Terry Washington, better known as "Terrible" Terry and 9 year old 65 lb. Isaiah Aguilar
Champs Terry and Isaiah with Project Fighting Chance President Ian Franklin...
Look out for our newest program...
The mission of the Junior Urban Golf Program is to impact the lives of young people, particularly minority and disadvantaged youth into the game of golf; in the Inland Empire area with exposure to the game of golf philosophy, technique, etiquette and fundamentals, thereby increasing their golf skills and providing them with a wide range of developmental experiences. J.U.G. requires participants to improve their academic performance and social development while improving self-esteem and building confidence.