Bridges Beyond Boxing is an organization based in Northern Ireland whose mission is to use boxing to build bridges – within Northern Ireland (between the Protestant and Catholic communities), between Northern Ireland and the United States, and within the US communities of Detroit and Cincinnati as well (across racial, socio-economic, and ethnic differences). In addition to building these local communities, the program also gives these youth “the chance to take part in cultural and social experiences with their peers from other parts of the world”. The boxers are normally between the ages of 13 and 18.
A significant component of the Bridges Beyond Boxing model is the “host family.” In addition to keeping costs down, it gives the boxers the opportunity to immerse completely in the local community. They get a small but real glimpse into what life is like in a new country. This is how my family became involved.
My wife Kathy and I, along with our son Declan, have been members of the Irish Cultural Center of Cincinnati since shortly after its inception. We are regulars there, at concerts and other events throughout the year. In August of 2017, the Center contacted us about Bridges Beyond Boxing, asking if we’d be willing to host a pair of boxers from Northern Ireland for a week in September. We were thrilled to take part – and the experience was phenomenal for us.
We got to know the boys, and the rest of the Bridges Beyond Boxing team, quite well. We brought them to all their various activities, and cheered them on, while they became a part of our daily life. This year, 2018, we were very excited to take part again. Both years, the boys came to Declan’s school to talk to his class about their experience.
Caption: Cahir, James and Declan, speaking to Declan's 6th Grade class
They learned how to play baseball with him,
joined us on trips for ice cream,
and really became part of our family.
We’re still in touch with all four boys (Thomas and Colin from 2017, and James and Cahir from 2018). We hope to visit Northern Ireland in the near future, and meet up with them again – this time, getting to meet their families as well!
At the 2017 event, two RoundTower executives, Andy Stein and Stephen Power, were also introduced to Bridges Beyond Boxing. They likewise both share an Irish heritage and were eager to find ways to get involved. Knowing that I had been involved the previous year, they wanted to know how they could help. Stephen and his wife Cassi joined us as a Host Family this year, and generously volunteered to host a Thursday night cookout and swim party for the entire Bridges Beyond Boxing / Irish Cultural Center / Host Family group!
Caption: Cookout and Swim Party at the Powers' house
Stephen and Andy wanted to be even more involved, though. They arranged to have a “present” for each of the boys (and coaches) when they arrived. They purchased custom made boxing bags and sweat shirts and provided each boxer with a new pair of boxing shoes. They also filled the bags with other essentials for their visit – snacks, water, spare socks, even a jump rope! RoundTower employees created the logo for the bags and shirts and assembled and tagged each individual bag. We were at the Irish Center about an hour longer than planned. The kids were having so much fun going through all of the new gear, and trying things on, that their coaches wanted to make sure they could savor the moment. “It’s even better than Christmas!” was a refrain we heard often!
Caption: Stephen Power, with the gifts for the boxers
Caption: The Bridges Beyond Boxing group with their new gear!
We are all looking forward to participating again in 2019 and
finding more ways to help this organization make a difference in the lives of these youth.