7 On Your Sideline: 'Restoring the Path' with boxing

February 6, 2012 4:37:51 AM PST
When you look at the Englewood Community on Chicago's South Side, the news is usually not good. It has long been one of the highest crime ridden area's in the country, one of the highest unemployment areas in the city and near the bottom when it comes to economic development.

When a person rises above these circumstances, it truly is nothing short of a miracle. The Bulls' Derrick Rose and singer Jennifer Hudson are two examples.

But, there are others who aren't as famous who are trying to "make it." Enter an organization called "Restoring the Path." It helps young men from Englewood find an alternative to street life by introducing them to boxing. A few of these young men have had troubled pasts, but they are now moving in the right direction. The story of the "Englewood Crushers" boxing club is incredible. And the person who started all of this is just as incredible.

Sally Hazelgrove, the founder of "Restoring the Path," drives through her Englewood neighborhood every week and picks up young men in the area, driving them to a local gym, where they train, fight, and most importantly, stay off the streets.

"I moved to Englewood because I've been working out there for 12 years," she said. "I felt like, to really change it, I had to do it from the inside. Two years ago, I decided to move out there with my children. I have three children, single parent. As far as why would a white woman move out there, God blessed me to not see color and I really don't know what's wrong with the rest of the world, but I refuse to be a part of that. When people criticize me and said you are putting your children in danger I said, well if it's not ok for my child how is it ok for any child? My children aren't more valuable than these children."

The program is working. Just ask her boxers.

"I used to hang out with my friends on the streets," said Isiah Cook. "Now, I'm basically in the gym all day, working out. Twice a day, three times a day."

"You ain't going to catch me hanging out on the blocks or nothing because right after school, I come to boxing or on Saturday mornings, I come to boxing and then I go to another gym and do more training," said Terrence Smith.

"I used to have a lot of anger issues, you know like hard controlling my temper or whatever," said Darnell Miller. "But, now if I get mad, I just go into the backyard and shadow box and meditate for a while and then the next thing you know I forget what I was mad about."

Hazelgrove has an ambitious vision that goes beyond the gym.

"We have kids dying out there every single day. To me that's not OK. I've made the commitment to myself and to the children and the youth that I'm going to change this. I'm going to bring my own job creations. Our dream is to open our own gym, the youth will all operate it and to open our own restaurant with a boxing theme to bring in the outside world.

"And my dream and my whole vision is that it's supervised by adults like myself, but, the youth operate everything. I've told them 'I'm building this for you.' "

Boxing instructor Henry Sims couldn't believe Hazelgrove could accomplish what she has.

"I thought it would be an in and out thing, but, she stuck it out and I could see a big difference," Sims said. "I can see a change. She's giving them what they want, which is love. Somebody to care about them, do things with them, and they enjoy that. I think it's very important and I just wish we had some more. That's why it's only a chosen few, but, she's one-in-a-million."