The Topeka Citadel, Kan., Corps has opened the Three Shields Boxing Academy in partnership with the city’s police and fire departments. The program invites youth, ages 5-18, to learn the sport’s fundamentals for free on Monday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning. Participants are provided gloves, head gear and a mouth guard. Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, 20 youth are participating, but another 45 have joined a waiting list for the popular new program.
“Boxing has been shown to increase self-confidence, curb aggression and help an individual focus,” said Captain Cristian López, Topeka corps officer. “The Three Shields Boxing Academy serves as a platform to teach participants self-control, management of emotions and aggression, the importance of physical fitness and the basic skills of boxing. The Salvation Army of Topeka will be collaborating with the school district to keep kids in the ring and off the streets.”
Another benefit is the positive relationships that are being made between youth and the 10 police and firefighters who are coaches, most of whom are bilingual.
The academy resides in a transformed garage next to the corps. It boasts two boxing rings and 19 punching bags—all donated by the community—and is large enough to allow social distancing in a safe environment.
The program originated when Captains Cristian and Brook López were appointed in June 2019 to Topeka. Along with the corps’ development director, Shelley Robertson, they saw the need to reach out to youth in the corps’ surrounding neighborhood. They felt God’s direction to ask the police and fire departments for their support and collaboration and received a positive response. The Three Shields Boxing Academy was inaugurated in September 2020 in partnership with these two groups, volunteers and staff from The Salvation Army and a coach from the US Golden Gloves, who gladly donated one of the boxing rings. The opening was attended by the city’s mayor and council members, showing their support for the new endeavor.
“This is wonderful. I am very blessed,” said Captain Cristian at the event. “First of all, I want to give God the glory and thank this community for their support. This is how we make change!”
In the future, the captain says the corps hopes to offer an afterschool program, archery and soccer for youth.