Fighting for the Future

FullSizeRenderWhen most of us were young we had a group of friends we always hung out with.  We spent our days occupied with sports, outdoor activities, and general stuff that kids do.  But what if you didn’t have that option?  What if there weren’t sports or a place for you to hang out safely?  What if you didn’t have a stable group of friends?

Maybe you’d be fine.  Maybe you’d get into trouble.  Perhaps a great deal of trouble.

For many of our children these days there’s a lack of options for safe and controlled physical activities.  Many of our youth spend their time in front of screens and have little or no exercise in their daily routines.  Pro boxer-turned-coach Zach Walters knows all too well what can happen in these circumstances.

Walters himself ran into some problems with drugs and bullying as a result of frequent moves with his family.  Some poor choices lead him down a bad path; one where he had to really fight and struggle to escape.  Having gone through these events, although devastating for him and his family at the time, he has been shaped into the type of person anyone can see as a role model.

Many people talk about tough times they’ve gone through.  And I bet most would not change the past.  In fact, it is our history that tells our present story and lays out our future.  Had they not lived through poverty, addiction, homelessness, or whatever hardship, they likely would not have the character they have today.    

But what if you didn’t have someone to look up to?

That is a sad fact for many young people.  The unfortunate outcome is placing admiration on the wrong type of people.  Or maybe they’re easily persuaded into using or selling drugs.  A strong peer bond or a mentor could help to keep kids on a better path.  And that is exactly what Walters is counting on.

When he took over the former Horton’s Gym, Walters set out to make it his own.  He formed a non-profit and, with the help of Duluth Mayor Don Ness, found a building in which they would make a home for the gym.  He enlisted the help of his own boxing coach, Chuck Horton, Jack O’Brien, and Bob “Bing Bang” Pritz.  They were not only training young people, they were teaching them life lessons.  

And they didn’t turn anyone away.

The gym has made a point of being a safe haven for young people, a refuge for them to seek physical and emotional guidance.  Youth are not turned away because of inability to pay.  Walters and Horton made that decision early on, feeling that those kids are likely the ones who need the gym the most.  That is where the scholarships of the non-profit come in.  The only condition is that the participants read and sign a chemical-free pledge.

What an outstanding program.  What outstanding guys.

Author: Roxanne Wilmes

Roxanne is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and avid boxing fan. She first met Chuck Horton when she ran his wife’s campaign for MN House of Representatives. Past experiences have led her to be a strong advocate for anti-bullying and substance abuse issues. You can reach her at or @rocketwilmes on Twitter.