The cool kids in town thought it a joke when Forest Fighting Fit first opened over two years ago. But within minutes of stepping inside to grudgingly take a look in the way teenagers sometimes do, they were hooked.
Today, Forest Fighting Fit caters for many young people who previously might have been hanging around on street corners. It has given them a focus and filled a void that might have otherwise led them towards trouble.
In 2015, Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl helped get it off the ground with a grant of £40,000 from the Commissioner’s Fund. To commemorate its second anniversary, Deputy PCC Chris Brierley last night (Thursday) presented the organisation with a plaque bearing the commissioner’s crest underscored with the words ‘Breaking the cycle of crime’.
Mr Brierley said, “One of the young members has struggled with a condition most of his life, but he’s discovered the benefits of boxing which have had amazing results on his health. It’s helped him to keep fit and manage his aggressive behaviour.
“The discipline of boxing has helped him control his anger and he’s found that he’s able to focus better at school which has also boosted his confidence.
“It’s such a good story and a great example of the work being done by Forest Fighting First which is replicated by many other Commissioner’s Fund projects around the county”.
Forest Fighting Fit is one of more than 400 projects supported through the Commissioner’s Fund since 2012 to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour throughout the county.
Chairman of Forest Fighting Fit Michele Gardiner said, “We are delighted to have this recognition from the Commissioner and for his continued support because securing funding is becoming more and more difficult.
“We believe we are having a positive effect and helped to reduce anti-social behaviour through activity. As volunteers, seeing young people turn their lives around is extremely satisfying and makes our work worthwhile”.
Seventy six local projects and organisations received grants from the Commissioner’s Fund this year. The bidding process for the next round of Commissioner’s Fund closes at midnight on 31 October.
Forest Fighting Fit, previously operated briefly as the Friday Night Project. It is open to all members of the public including young people who have been referred by police, social services and Families First.
It operates at the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Cinderford on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and most Sunday mornings.
Councillor Paul Hiett, Cabinet Member for the community and community safety added: “The Community Safety Partnership is pleased to have been able to support the volunteers with the set-up of the club. The volunteers at the club have told us that because of the Police and Crime Commissioner funding it’s been possible to bring boxing into the local community.
“The awarding of the plaque is in recognition of hard work of the volunteers that continue to run this successful club for the benefit of young people in the Forest of Dean.”
New members and volunteers are welcome and can get in touch on 07790025743 or visit the ‘White Lotus Martial Arts and Fitness’ facebook page for information about the kickboxing sessions and the ‘Forest Fighting Fit’ facebook for information about the boxing sessions.