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The Good Fight: Legendary referee Richard Steele goes to battle for the children of Las Vegas

March 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Highlights

Richard Steele, right, with his wife and Nelson Mandela.

Thirty years as one of the most visible referees in the game made him a legend of professional boxing, but today Richard Steele is suiting up in another arena: making lives better for children in Las Vegas.

He is doing that by fighting to secure the private sector funding needed to sustain the Richard Steele Health and Wellness Center, which provides youth in the community with physical activities and self-development programs.

“In 1995, we started out as a boxing gym and we noticed that there was a deeper need that had to be fulfilled within the community,” Steele explained. “The youth that attended our center seemed to need more than just self-defense classes. So, we incorporated educational programming and leadership training that consists of mentoring, stress management, health and employment programs.”

The center had been funded by the state of Nevada, but the state recently discontinued that financial support.

“Throughout the years, we have serviced thousands of children and we currently have 182 children enrolled,” said Steele. “We follow the guidelines of the USA Boxing Association, which requires us to service people ages 8-28. Our center was first funded by a private donor named Kirk Kerkorian of the MGM Grand hotel. He funded the center for 10 straight years, and then the state funded the center for the next five years. Currently, we have no outside funding; but the center has been well institutionalized within the community, and the children have come to rely on the services it provides.”

Those who utilize the services offered by the Richard Steele Health and Wellness Center currently pay monthly fees that range from $40 for children and $60 for adults. Still, those funds do not cover the operating costs, which makes Steele all the more determined to find new resources. The work is making a big impact in the community; Steele estimates that  more than 75 percent of the students who attend the center go on to college, and he attributes this in large part to educational and life skills programs provided there.

“It takes $240,000 to operate the … center, and it should be noted that all of the programs and Saturday tutoring assistance is all free to students who belong to the center,” he said. “Just because our funding has been cut, we still provide the services to our community youth. We haven’t missed a beat in the quality services we provide, and the testimonials from the children who attend our center tell it best. The bullying crisis that plagues so many of our youth in schools sparked the anti-bullying program that we conduct, along with the Metro(politan) Police Department. At our center, there are children who used to bully people, and there are children who used to be bullied. Now, there is none of that in those students’ lives. They understand how to stand up on their own two feet, and how to protect themselves and walk away from fighting.”


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