KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A free boxing program in the metro is going beyond the ring and aiming to give youth in the urban core a place to escape.
Three times out of the week, you can find children as young as five and as old as 17 at the Gregg Klice Community Center's boxing ring. KC Parks and Rec is offering youth beginning boxing techniques and training.
But for many, it's more than just an extracurricular activity.
"It was an outlet for me to keep me on the right track, keep me disciplined and keep me out of trouble," boxing coach Chris Thompson said.
Thompson has been boxing most of his life.
"I've been boxing since I was like 11 years old, on and off, just dealing with stuff at school. I turned that into a career," Thompson said.
He's won numerous awards, including the title of two-time Golden Glove champion in Kansas City.
Now he`s working to share his talents with what he feels is an even bigger purpose.
"I'm here for the kids and motivate the kids. I`m from the inner city, too, proof that you can be able to do something in life," Thompson said.
The class has been growing over the past months, at times boasting more than 40 regular students.
For many kids in the urban core, it`s seen as a way out of trouble and a way to bring kids together.
"I like it because I used to be bored at home most of the time," 7th-grader Lorenzo White said. "It’s like bringing all regions together, Mexican, African American, Chinese, everything like that.”
The sport and classes aren't just for the boys.
"I told my dad I wanted to do boxing. I want to be a wrestler when I grow up," said DaMani Hamilton, one of the only girls in the weekly classes.
Thompson said boxing can be an alternative to street life, using himself as an example.
“It teaches discipline, keep you on the right track, and stay focused, even in school," he said.
The free classes are offered every Tuesday/Thursday and Saturday starting at 5:15 p.m. He hopes to expand the class one day.
If you would like to sign your child up, call Gregg Klice Community Center at 816-513-0652 or visit kcparks.org.