The Gleason’s Give A Kid A Dream Program was established in 1991 to provide boxing instruction to at-risk children at one of the sport’s most renown focal points, Gleason’s Gym. In 2012, Jackie Atkins partnered with Bruce Silverglade, owner, to birth Gleason’s Jersey Shore gym. Atkins combined the existing PAL youth program with a newly developed New Jersey Give a Kid a Dream “Champions of Life Program”, expanding the program to include academics and life skills.
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. “Champions for Life” integrates the discipline of amateur Olympic style boxing – a sport known to be as mentally demanding as it is physical – with fitness, mentoring, and academic advancement, social etiquette under one directive.
After an orientation process, the program’s doors are open daily, two age groups, under 12 and 12-18, both for fitness and boxing training, homework assistance and support personalized to the child’s needs – from anger management discussions to learning to write their signature in a work situation.
Rather than replicate other organization’s existing social service or learning models, NJGAKAD often refers youth to existing services while filling in the details, combining simple life skills easily overlooked in the face of poverty or social issues with mentors who expose the children to the all life’s possibilities outside the ring.
Children are selected by Atkins and her team through referrals from a network of public, private and nonprofit institutions including Long Branch PD Juvenile Division, GAKADNJ joined forces with Monmouth Cares, the Mental Health Organization of Monmouth County, Youth Children Services and the Division of Child Services to expand the reach and serve the youth of the surrounding communities.
In its first year, the referrals and word of Jackie’s previous results as a coach and mentor resulted in Give a Kid a Dream New Jersey (NJGAKAD) program grew rapidly and within the first year an additional 45 youth were referred to the program.
As part of the New Jersey program, Atkins integrated the youth of the Long Branch Police Athletic League programs – programs she knows that work because they introduced her to boxing – under the umbrella of NJGAKAD.
NJGAKAD Champions of Life program is a 501c3 organization, supported by private donations, the exceptional Coaches & training staff members of the community members and professionals willing to volunteer their time and invest in our youth.