The volunteers supporting New Jersey Give A Kid A Dream (NJGAKAD) operate with four guiding principles: Educate. Encourage. Empower. Embrace. The volunteers are all governed with an ironclad commitment to giving the best to the children under their care.
According to founder Jacklyn Atkins, they are a diverse group from many walks of life who have one element in common: they have chosen to move in positive directions in their lives. Individually, they determined to succeed, together, they will ensure our children have every chance to succeed.
Tony, who works on development initiatives and special projects on behalf of NJGAKAD, consistently and quietly goes beyond the call of duty for children. Tony spent 25 years becoming well versed in successful business development and account management in the corporate and agency public relations environments including all business sectors in Fortune 1000 companies. He left corporate life to found Team Moyo, in conjunction with Tanzania Paralympic Committee (TPC) and the Tanzania Tennis Association, to empower disabled and able-bodied children through tennis.
While NJGAKAD stays focused on how boxing improves lives outside of the ring, it takes competition inside the ring seriously. Rahn is the senior coach focused on ensuring NJGAKAD-based fighters are competition ready. A mainstay of the New Jersey boxing community, Rahn’s amateur and professional fighters thrive under his quiet determination and rigorous discipline. Rahn has also coached the boxing programs at several army camps, including Fort Bragg and Fort Bliss, as well as many youth development programs. Currently, Rahn trains New Jersey resident Dustin “White Tiger” Fleischer, who made his professional debut in 2015 at Madison Square Garden and was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation promotions company after his second fight.
A few words with Wendell, the coach responsible for strength and conditioning, and the words “jovial” and “philosophical” spring to mind. A boxer since 1985 and an ordained minister since 2015, Wendell tends to smile more with his eyes than mouth, and quick to explain “Young, old, male female, it all starts in the mind.” So it’s not uncommon for Wendell to teach mental techniques alongside his abdominal routine. He began coaching the children of NJGAKAD when he began training his soon, Quadell, at Gleason’s New Jersey and brought all the gym’s children under his wing. It doesn’t hurt his coaching skills empowered his son, Quadell, to win the Golden Gloves his first try.
Karen oversees the fitness training and homework assistance for the “Making the Grade” component for NJGAKAD. She also serves as the unofficial welcome committee into the program, guiding and instilling the basics of boxing and the foundations of Jacklyn Atkins‘ “Champions of Life” philosophy. Karen has 30 years corporate experience in advertising sales and has boxed and kickboxed for over 20 years, obtaining a black belt in kickboxing in 1997. Above all, Karen is a teacher, balancing methodical progress with consistent positive energy. She does not relent until her students master their tasks and feel empowered to achieve.
Russ focuses on development and special projects for NJGAKAD and applies a Swiss army knife of skills to help this amazing group shine. He knows what slipping through the cracks and beating the odds entails. Originally 350 pounds, Russ lost 200 pounds while working fulltime as a food writer and restaurant critic, only to find his journey didn’t end with dieting success. After further soul-searching and training, Russ emerged as a chef in his own right, a fledgling boxer and powerful teacher and public speaker. He has maintained his weight loss for 12 years against all leading statistics on obesity. He has appeared on The Today Show and in Newsweek, and his articles and cooking demonstrations have peppered diet facilities and newspapers across the East Coast. Learn more about him at www.wekeepitoff.com.
Vernice Morris, MSW
Vernice is the personal counselor to each child in the program and it’s a natural relationship because, nearly 10 years ago, she was that child in NJGAKAD. Mentored as a third daughter in Jackie’s family, Vernice has continued the family tradition of empowering those in need. Originally working with Americorp and Girls Incorporated, and now in private practice, Vernice has a gift for tailoring scientifically proven methods for different communities. This includes developing the life skills of boxers or articulating and processing the homeless’ feelings through journaling. She also collaborated with the University of South Carolina to create a program for community workers to utilize that cares for the special needs of veterans and their families. In addition, Vernice has worked with Missing Persons Units in law enforcement, with under-served populations and incorrigible youth.
While his 30-year Marine career earned him the rank of Staff Sergeant, boxing coach Kevin’s style with NJGAKAD’s teen division doesn’t fit the Hollywood image of Louis Gossett Jr. howling orders. Kevin rarely raises his voice, using a tone of power and self-control even if his fighters are amid a chaotic match. With certainty and matter-of-fact excellence, Kevin urges his pupils to outgrow brute force tactics and think strategically. Kevin trains competition-ready teens of NJGAKAD and oversees the intensive Saturday training. With the Marines, Kevin served in Operation Desert Storm and had an extensive career in Homeland Security, granting him 10 medals or commendations, including special accolades for the war on terrorism. In addition to NJGAKAD, Kevin coaches and teaches amateur boxing in New Jersey.
One of the NJGAKAD‘s mentors, Shere, is both a USA Boxing official and a woman who leads three lives across three very different industries. Beginning in the beauty and fitness industry, Shere became an interfaith minister, delved into wellness and massage therapy all while being involved in boxing….her matches as well as those she oversaw. Her successes and ability to rise above her challenges fuels her passion for ensuring children rise above whatever adversity they face. “I can teach children and make an impact. I have all these amazing experiences in my life and can see what god has put in front of me,” she says. “There’s so much they need that they don’t get.”