The Merced County Sheriff’s Activities League and the Carlos Vieira Foundation are teaming up to deliver a powerful right hook to teen drug use in Northern Merced County.
Vieira, owner and president of Carlos Vieira Racing and 51 FIFTY Enterprises, has pledged a monetary and fundraising effort, known as “Race 2B Drug Free,” for the formation of a boxing program in Livingston. The program’s goal is aimed at keeping high school and junior high students away from drugs and the gang life.
The Livingston program will be modeled after similar SAL volunteer operated after-school boxing clubs at Delhi High School and in Atwater. All three clubs will join to form a posse and send young boxers to competitions throughout California.
“After school is a time when kids can really get into trouble. Many parents work and do not come home until later in the evening. During that in-between time is when kids are most at-risk. Some kids will hang out and get into trouble — maybe even join a gang. Some kids will get bored, and boredom can lead to drug use,” said Vieira.
In recent weeks Vieira has secured a location for a downtown Livingston gym at the A.V. Thomas packing facility. He has also purchased a boxing ring, the single largest expense for a new boxing program. The program already has a coach, Dennis Moniz, who has coached at the Atwater SAL facility and the Turlock Police Activities League.
Merced County SAL President Deputy Jim Wilde is enthusiastic about the partnership between SAL and Vieira.
“We’ve got a facility and a ring and those are huge steps toward being successful,” he said.
The largest obstacle for SAL’s mission is funding for equipment, travel expenses and entry fees for boxing shows — and that’s where Vieira says he can help.
“We will be supporting these programs and helping them grow. Eventually we would like to expand these programs to surrounding areas as well,” said Vieira. “Boxing is an individual sport with a team atmosphere that many of these at-risk kids respect. Boxing can help build confidence, discipline and a healthy body. It helps the kids be part of a team and to feel good about themselves.”
Moniz praises boxing as a sport that can build character through adversity.
“This sport in and of itself promotes character. You learn about losing and picking yourself back up and dealing with adversity and eventually accomplishment,” he said. “When you’re in the ring you can’t turn to your gang buddies — you go out there and you get hit.”
Livingston High School Principal Ralph Calderon said the program will help students who would not be interested in traditional sports.
“Whenever you get kids into a structured activity their grades and attendance improve. I just received a statistic than 27 percent of our non-athletes are ineligible — meaning they have an F, but only six percent of our athletes do. And that doesn’t include arts programs. This boxing program says to those at-risk kids that we care about their lives and we want them to be successful,” he said.
After the holidays Vieira plans to open his facility, probably in late January, and Calderon has pledged to hold numerous lunch time events to help get the word out to students. He said he eventually wants to host a tournament at Delhi or Livingston.
Calderon and Vieira want to bring in speakers to tell kids the ugly truth about drugs, for both the high school and the boxing program.
“I’m not talking about someone who will sugarcoat their experience and hardships, but someone who will really lay it all out there and scare these kids. Drug abuse is ugly and the results of using drugs never end well, unless you are able to stop — but it’s something young users think — they will never get hooked,” said Vieira.
For information on how to help Race 2B Drug Free or how to sponsor the Livingston, Delhi or Atwater gym activities visit www.carlosvieirafoundation.org.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.