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Chicago Nonprofit Helps Girls Unlock Inner Strength Through Boxing

CHICAGO (WLS) — A local organization has found a unique way to connect with girls.

The program, “Fight like a Girl,” teaches young ladies the fundamentals of boxing, but the girls are doing a lot more than throwing punches.

The program is all about helping young ladies unlock their inner strength.

The organization helps girls with their self-esteem, conflict resolution and positive body image, and they’re doing it all through boxing.

They’re tough, they’re strong and they are girls.

“Girls, they can do whatever they want. And girls can be better than boys,” 9-year-old Lyric Black said.

She said she feels “powerful” when she boxes.

Mary Kate Vanecko founded the nonprofit, Box United, in 2019.

Since then, she’s brought the Fight like a Girl program to 10 schools across the city.

“I initially started boxing in college just to stay in shape, and I realized there were so many other benefits to my confidence and mental wellbeing,” Vanecko said. “I worked in consulting for a while and was running this on the side, and then last year I resigned from my job and started doing it full-time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly three in five teen girls in the United States felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 — nearly double the number of girls had these feelings than boys. This represents a nearly 60% increase over the past decade.

Fight like a Girl is working to combat those numbers.

“We do a lot with conflict resolution, how to manage social media, just tools to be able to manage the stresses of life,” Box United COO Chlyla Wilson-Lewis said.

Wilson-Lewis is the daughter of Bears Super Bowl ’85 legend Otis Wilson.

Wilson’s granddaughter, Lyla, definitely has her grandfather’s genes.

“It kind of makes me feel relaxed,” Wilson said. “It’s fun to me. I like to punch things.”

“It’s a confidence builder for her,” Wilson-Lewis said. “She gets to do it with her friends. She has a community, a safe space where she can talk about things.”

They’re learning the fundamentals of not just boxing, but life.

“If you have anxiety, you can get all your anger out,” Black said.

More than 200 girls throughout Chicago are signed up for the Fight like a Girl program this fall.

The organization will also be expanding to park districts this year.

To learn more about Fight like a Girl, and if they can come to your kids’ school, visit boxunited.org.

The program is completely free to students. It’s funded thanks to government grants and corporate partners.

Source : ABC 7