New charity packs a punch in fight against gang culture
A charity has been launched in the Black Country to keep young people away from gang culture.
Former councillor and MEP Bill Etheridge helped launched the not-for-profit charitable organisation, Supporting Futures, at an event attended by former Wolves star Mel Eves, four-time world kickboxing champion Kash Gill and Team GB Olympic boxing hopeful Niall Farrell.
It provides scholarships to encourage the rehabilitation, education and employability of young people in the Black Country through the medium of sport.
Bill Etheridge, fundraising director of Supporting Futures, said: "There is a large number of 16 to 20-year-olds out there at the moment who have come out of school without qualifications or any work because of this, more and more young people are falling into gang culture, knife crime and going down the wrong path.
"A couple of years ago I started going to a boxing gym. The more I got talking to the guys there I found out about all the brilliant work they do with young offenders and people in the system.
"It's really encouraging and inspiring that the guys at the gym make no secret that they have led a chequered past and now want to stop people going down the same route, it's a story of redemption.
"I thought why don't we do this before they offend instead?"
The scholarships will give youngsters the opportunity to train with local partners at boxing gyms and sports clubs, combined with education and mentoring.
Bill added: "They will get pro-coaching in boxing, but at the same time they must accept one to one mentoring and education.
"In the months after the programme, I will take it upon myself to try and get them work by taking them to different employers. If we can get help just one person get into a job and away from crime then that's great."
Currently, the charity has partnered with Iron Masters Gym and RG Boxfit in Bilston to provide education, boxing lessons and mentoring sessions to individuals that secure a scholarship through Supporting Futures.
At the launch event on Monday, the sporting legends showed their support for the scheme.
Mel Eves was incredibly supportive and will be working with mentoring with the charity in the future. He said: "It's an important way to give empowerment to youth and free them of gang culture."
Young Olympic hopeful, Niall Farrell, added: "It gives young people hope that there is somewhere they can channel their energy."
The charity is currently reliant on charity donations and events, with the first one, an evening with Frank Bruno at the Robin in Bilston, taking place on Thursday, February 27.
They need £8,000 to get the first 10 young people through the course.
In the future as support for the charity grows, they hope to expand the number of sports offered in the programme and number young people they can help.
Any sports groups in the Black Country or young people who are interested in learning more about the organisation should get in touch through their website supportfutures.org.uk