NJGAKAD marries the benefits of boxing with a curriculum that includes positive life skills and social services to encourage and empower children to achieve their goals, regardless of adversity. The Give A Kid A Dream (GAKAD) program was originally established in 1991 at one of boxing’s most renown focal points, Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, to provide boxing instruction to at-risk children. In 2012, Jacklyn Atkins partnered with GAKAD founders, Bruce Silverglade, Gleason’s owner, and Perry D’Alessio, of the CPA firm D’Alessio Tocci and Pell, to expand the program to include comprehensive youth development at low-to-no cost to the recipients. The next phase was to expand the concept into Long Branch, New Jersey creating NJGAKAD to allow Atkins to adopt a broader strategy and expand upon the concept.
Atkins developed the “Champions of Life” approach to provide discipline, drive and vision with the make-or-break life skills often overlooked in social programs. Toward that end, “Champions of Life” integrates the discipline of amateur Olympic style boxing – a sport known to be as mentally demanding as it is physical – with fitness, life skills, counselling, mentoring and academic advancement under one directive.
In its first year, the referrals and word of mouth of Jackie’s results as a mentor catapulted NJGAKAD’s participation and within the first year, an additional 45 youth were referred to the program.
The program’s doors are open six days a week for two age groups: under 12 and 12-18. Both groups benefit from fitness and boxing training, homework assistance and personalized support designed to meet each child’s needs from medical assistance to learning to write their signature in a work situation.
Children are selected by Atkins and her team through referrals from a network of public, private and non-profit institutions including Long Branch PD Juvenile Division, MonmouthCares, The Mental Health Organization of Monmouth County, Youth Children Services and The Division of Child Services all with the purpose to serve the youth of the surrounding communities.
NJGAKAD is a 501c3 organization, supported by private donations, the exceptional coaches & training staff members of Gleason’s Jersey Shore gym, community members and professionals willing to volunteer their time and invest in our youth.