From the streets to the ring, a local gym and its owner are helping people use boxing to knock out life’s biggest challenges and make a difference in East Hartford.
Their stories are similar – many were looking for a purpose and a sense of direction.
“I was in and out of school," said East Hartford resident Richard Rivera. "I really couldn't find myself.”
“I had a little temper problem, a little anger problem,” said Alana Royale.
They said Bare Bones Boxing Gym and Gwen Tompkins helped them turn their lives around.
“We’re a family here,” said Tompkins, who owns the gym.
Tompkins and her husband opened the boxing gym in East Hartford's Silver Lane Plaza simply because she liked the workout. But it soon grew into a way to help many who had lost their way.
Rivera overcame a broken home and his brother’s death to discover that boxing is his passion.
“I really don't know where I'd be" without the gym, Rivera said. "I'd probably be locked up right now.”
Royale went from having fights in school that got her kicked out of class, to going undefeated in her weight class.
“As soon as I got a grip on remaining calm and keeping my composure, that's when everything started to flow,” she explained.
Despite the dozens of people who use this gym, Tompkins runs it at a loss.
“It's hard on the pocket, but it makes it all worth it at the end of the day,” she said.
People who can't afford a membership can pay off their gym time by cleaning equipment.
“It's hard to charge a membership to kids that don't have anything,” Tompkins said.
But Tompkins said she doesn’t know how long she can keep the gym going unless a sponsor steps in.
Gym members are hoping someone can save the gym that helped save them.
“It’s like a second family to me,” said Royale.