Flagler County, FL – Getting the kids off the streets and into positive activities is a mission for Kerri Henderson, program coordinator for Flagler Sheriff’s Police Athletic League and Deputy Nicole Quintieri, director of Flagler Sheriff’s PAL. It was a banner evening for the dynamic duo as they hosted the very first Bouts of Honor Scholarship Boxing Tournament raising funds for PAL scholarships.
“First time ever. The turnout is fantastic. We had a goal of $10,000, so we hope we’re getting there,” said Quintieri enthusiastically midway through the event on Saturday evening.
With a myriad of athletic programs to choose from, kids in the community can find something they enjoy under the PAL banner, and teaming up with Lion’s Pride Boxing gym in 2019, kids have had one more way to get off the streets and into something good.
It’s a relationship that helped Benjamin Yacono find his passion two years ago, when he discovered it as one of the PAL programs.
“I’ve only had three fights. I’ve just always been into sports and then I found out boxing was a solo sport and pretty much fell in love with it right away,” said Yacono, now part of the Lion’s Pride team.
“To be honest it’s probably the Rocky movies, and I took karate when I was younger. Whether it’s doing it for fun or you need a way to let some stress out, definitely find somewhere locally you can box because it will help a lot,” he advised other teens.
He is mentored by older youth like Adrian Otero, who took to the ring on Saturday night. Serving as an inspiration and role model for others like Yacono, Otero takes it seriously.
“The reason why I do what I do are the physical and health aspects. I like helping the children, I like coaching the children and being a mentor. It really helps me a lot to help them. It makes me feel good to be able to help the youth and be able to guide them in a way that was never available to me,” shared Otero.
“For the younger people out there, boxing can help them in all types of ways. Discipline, fitness, and the mental and the health aspect is really the most important part.”
The Bouts of Honor Scholarship Tournament attracted participants from as far away as Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania. Coming in from Kingsland, Georgia, Rickey Caster, Sr. and wife Janell Caster cheered their son on to victory in the 152 pound junior division.
Serving as his son’s coach, he encouraged the young boxer to visualize the win while on the stool between rounds. It was the chance to be part of the inaugural event that brought them to Flagler Palm Coast High School on Saturday, where the tournament was staged.
“We went to his first fight a month ago and this is his second fight. He’s just going at it,” said Caster, Sr. “I was telling him, you have to win the fight first in your mind. You already got a win in your mind, and I told him to stick back from behind your jab and work from there. It’s everyday training, five, six days a week. You need rest as well.”
Caster, Jr., says he works on instinct with his training while in the ring, and was proud to be following in his father’s footsteps with boxing.
Based in Marvin’s Gardens plaza in Bunnell, Lion’s Pride Boxing team coach Rick Fontan says having the youth involved in a sport like boxing teaches them about sportsmanship, success and defeat and how to focus – all important life skills.
“It’s all about the kids in Flagler, getting them ready for life,” said Fontan, who had six kids competing in different weight classes during the tournament. “We’re teaching them how to have discipline, have courage, accept defeat and wins. It’s a learning process for the kids and gets them off the street.”
“Two of our PAL kids are going to participate in the nationals in Texas next month. They won the Junior Olympics here in Tampa last month so Flagler Sheriff’s PAL will be represented in the nationals next month in July,” he said. “There’s never been boxing in Flagler ever. Our PAL program is awesome and I think this will be a successful partnership for a long time.”
Henderson was grateful for the community support, knowing the impact PAL has on youth in the area.
“We are so thankful everybody came out. All the money made from this event goes back to Flagler Sheriff’s Police Athletic League and Lion’s Pride for scholarships,” shared Henderson. “Our next session is starting in August so come to our webpage or call the office and we can tell you more about what’s going on.”
Results will be posted via the Flagler Sheriff’s Police Athletic League once formally announced by USA Boxing.