SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Located on the 300 block of South Geddes Street in Syracuse, The West Area Athletic and Education Center helps at-risk youths through boxing and schooling.
Ray Rinaldi founded the non-profit in 1994, and began his mission to help bring opportunity to the less fortunate. In Rinaldi’s eyes, boxing is merely the hook to bring kids through his doors, as the center also offers several G.E.D. classes. Rinaldi added that the discipline that boxing teaches cannot be taught through any other sport.
“These kids, you can change them all, 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. They have no discipline, this is 100 percent discipline,” Rinaldi said. “Ain’t nobody wants to get hit so you pay attention?”
Rinaldi’s nephew Chris Burns is the Head Boxing Coach at the center. Burns shares his uncle’s passion for changing lives and he looks forward, not only to the accolades his boxers receive, but what they accomplish outside the ring.
“Growing into great fathers and family members, and seeing them go do positive things in the community,” Burns said. “That’s way better than any boxing championship that they get along the way.”
Barb Karas has been working and volunteering for Rinaldi for 12 years and said, once kids come through the doors, they share a special bond.
“You have kids from the wealthiest families in Syracuse, and you have kids from the poorest families in Syracuse, but when they come here they are all family,” Karas said.
Ray Rinaldi turns 90 years old in November. But Rinaldi does not plan on slowing down any time soon.
“We have already set Ray’s retirement, it’s going to be 20 years, I think he has left on his contract,” Burns said.
And when that time comes, Burns will be there ready to fill his shoes.