Boxing club in Eskasoni First Nation offers teens solace from hardship
TORONTO -- While it hasn’t yet produced a champion fighter or Olympian, one boxing club in the Eskasoni First Nation, N.S. has produced some impressive results.
At the Eskasoni Red Tribe Boxing Club, victory is measured in more than knockouts, as the sport offers young athletes a path for camaraderie, focus and solace from hardship.
Mentor and head coach Barry Bernard saw a need in his community and believes victories at his club are measured in more than knockouts.
"A lot of these kids come here, they don't come with love stories, they come from harsh backgrounds,” he told CTV News, explaining his young boxers work out much more than simply muscle.
He was intent on creating something positive, so five years ago Bernard started the boxing club where his lessons on sport and life are free.
For one of his students, Rein Ryan, the club has led to a significant improvement in his life.
"I was going down the wrong path and choosing, like, the wrong things to do with my life. I had a big wake up call down the road,” Ryan said. “And Barry came to me and helped me out."
But Ryan is just one of fortunate 200 Eskasoni First Nation teens who’ve been helped by Bernard.
For 15-year-old boxer Braedon Paul, the transformation has been remarkable.
He said, "I didn't leave my house much. I didn't socialize much. And coming here kind of changed that all."
So after a few bouts at the club and some fundraising, the club’s boxing team is attending a meet in Ontario. And for some of the competitors, it’s the first time they’ve left their homes.
But the meet is too much of an opportunity to show off their skills and pride.
"Once you open a door to them, you give them a chance of becoming role models in their community,” Bernard said.