Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00
On April 9, elected officials and community members gathered outside the Westbury Recreation Center to celebrate the renewal of the Westbury Boxing Club program.
The Boxing Club program, which has a 30-year history of providing youths with training as well as leadership skills, has been able to continue its outreach through a partnership with the Village of Westbury and the Denis Dillon Cornerman Foundation.
Former professional boxer Kevin Collins, who was trained at the Westbury Boxing Club, shared his story of how the program helped him to make better choices in life.
“If it wasn’t for the intervention of boxing, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Collins.
“I can’t say enough about the boxing program. We’d love to get some champions here, but it’s really about making better people. I had a lot of problems in my life and was in a lot of trouble, but through boxing, I was able to turn my life around,” Collins continued.
Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro discussed the history of the program as well as the recent decisions that had to be made regarding its funding.
As Cavallaro explained, the program’s funding was provided for many years by the office of the late Denis Dillon during his term as Nassau County’s district attorney. The funding came from forfeiture monies that Dillon allocated for the program.
“Mr. Dillon took money that was created from illegal ways and turned it into a really positive use,” said Cavallaro.
After Dillon left office, the program’s funding was provided by other sources, but in the past several years it began to experience financial difficulties.
“We had to decide whether we wanted to continue to support the boxing program and allow the space here to be used for that purpose,” said Cavallaro.
After hearing the compelling stories of people like Kevin Collins, the Village Board decided to work with the Dillon Cornerman Foundation.
Said Cavallaro, “Somebody asked me, ‘In a time like this, when government resources are shrinking, why would you spend money on a program of this nature?’”
“My response was, ‘You have to look beyond the dollars and cents.’”
He continued, “I think especially in a time like this when resources are shrinking on every level of government, when youth programs are being reduced, the target of this program is to help people who are on the margins of society. We need to have something that’s interesting to them to develop their self-esteem, leadership skills and confidence so they can go forward to have productive lives.”
Barbara Dillon, the daughter of the former DA who spoke on behalf of the Dillon family, agreed.
“The virtues and disciplines that are learned here will help these young men and women bring these lessons out into the world,” she said.
Town Councilwoman Viviana Russell and County Legislator Robert Troiano presented Dillon with citations recognizing the work of the Dillon Cornerman Foundation.
Troiano gave a special thanks to the boxing trainers who volunteer their time to coach the program.
“It’s really the volunteers in the community that get the work done,” said Troiano.
Former State Senator Michael Balboni, who is a board member of the Dillon Cornerman Foundation, had the same opinion.
“The volunteers show up every day, they don’t get paid and they teach the kids amazing stuff,” said Balboni.