When retired cop Matt Tomasic wanted to open a boxing gym geared toward mentoring children, he knew just the place.
Tomasic decided to convert a 128-year-old church that had stood vacant in Kansas City, Kansas, for over two decades into a space where children can train with police officers, finding common ground and new confidence.
“Somebody’s going to mentor our kids,” Tomasic told local station KCTV. “It can be us or it can be gang members.”
Added Tomasic, “It’s going to be a place of refuge for people. Where we will build relationships, we will build community, we will reduce crime, we will keep kids out of prison.”
Tomasic partnered with Lalo Robles, a kids' boxing coach, to help launch the gym.
Robles recalled how valuable the church had been for him as a child, keeping him busy — and out of trouble. “We wanted to reach out to the kids that need the help,” Robles said.
The two hope keeping children off the streets and in the boxing ring will provide fun and guide kids in the right direction.
"That's how I see it," Tomasic said. "And you know, we have built enough prisons."
The gym opened Monday, and they plan to eventually launch a community garden, an archery program and more in the future.