True power lies in kindness.
The power to elevate self-esteem and the power to knock out self-doubt.
The power to lift the spirits of others and the power to break down hate.
Kindness can help us realize our full potential and rise above social barriers to achieve success.
It can empower, encourage and educate.
I’ve witnessed firsthand what kindness can do for those the world has written off, people who truly believe they’re not good enough, smart enough or strong enough to make it.
But a little kindness goes a long way toward changing that mindset.
I know, because kindness changed mine.
Abandoned by my parents at just six weeks old and raised by a neighbor, I was caught up in a cycle of poverty and pain right from the start. A beleaguered school system and my crime-ridden neighborhood only served to feed my low-self-worth and negative world view.
In school, I was passed along from grade to grade without learning to read or write. When I reached 11th grade and saw how the system was failing me, I dropped out and turned to the streets, where I lived in the moment. I figured I’d die young like so many of my peers.
That is, until my older brother stepped in. He took the time to make me think about the path I was on – and his message sunk in. I was inspired and empowered to turn my life around.
The first thing I did was learn to read and write. Then, I went to work – taking on construction and security jobs – until I’d saved up enough to do what I’m truly passionate about – educating and empowering the youth in our community.
Today, I’m reminded of the true power of kindness each time I walk through the doors of the Downtown Boxing Gym, the Detroit nonprofit I established in 2007 to provide Detroit students with a safe and supportive alternative to the streets. It’s the home-away-from-home I never had as a child.
Bringing this dream to fruition is my way of paying forward the kindness that opened my eyes and changed my life’s trajectory many years ago.
And it’s why the program curriculum is built upon the notion that greatness and kindness are intertwined.
We show students that the sky’s the limit, but that to get there, they must be strong in mind, body and spirit. In order to better themselves, they must be kind to themselves. Emphasizing books before boxing, we stress academic excellence, mental discipline, strength of character and healthy lifestyle choices through free mentoring, academic tutoring, transportation, healthy food and hands-on coaching. Students “pay” through community service, which is another form of kindness in and of itself.
The students are taught that kindness is universal, meaning that anyone can bestow it and everyone is worthy of receiving it.
And we couldn’t do it without the unwavering commitment of our volunteers, staffers, supporters and families. Their kindness is the catalyst for our students’ success.
Since 2007, roughly 300 participants have completed our program and 100% have graduated from high school. Currently, about 170 metro Detroit boys and girls, ages 8-18, are enrolled. 850 more are on a waiting list.
I believe one of the kindest things we can do in this world is to pass on to younger generations all that we’ve learned and give them the tools and resources to be all they can be – with the hope that they, too, will one day pay it forward.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story.
“I believe one of the kindest things we can do in this world is to pass on to younger generations all that we’ve learned and give them the tools and resources to be all they can be.”
Sincerely, Khali Sweeney
Founder and CEO of Downtown Boxing Gym 🦄
You can discover more about Downtown Boxing Gym here.