DENVER (KDVR) — It’s more than just a martial arts gym to the young men who come to fight at the Heavy Hands Heavy Hearts & Star Girlz Center, in Aurora.
“There’s natural ego with fighting, because we’re there to win. But we’re all here to help each other,” said Kyle Sutherland, who has been coming to the center for seven months.
“It’s a lot of self love—it’s all help by helping. That’s what we’re about here,” said MMA fighter and mentor Lumumba Sayers Jr.
His dad, Lumumba Sayers Sr., founded the Aurora community center seven years ago, to create an outlet for kids and teenagers.
“You’d be surprised how many people come here that don’t eat and don’t have a place to go, that we try to help and give something positive to—have them just not be out in the streets and making bad decisions,” said Sayers.
His fight extends beyond the bag.
Sayers started the Gloves Up Guns Down, Get Your Heads Up In the Hood program—to try and curb gun violence in the Aurora and Denver communities.
“We actually lost two of our students this past Summer. Xaviyar [Lawrence Sturges] was killed at the Juneteenth celebration. And then Tayvion Washington—one of my little cousins—we lost him to a senseless murder in Park Hill,” said Sayers.
“And they didn’t go down the wrong path. They were doing what was right. They just got caught up in some senseless things that were going on in the community,” he added.
His son has helped run the program, but says the pandemic has slowed down their progress a bit.
“Everyone keeps asking when we’re going to bring it back, but COVID is kind of holding us back,” said Sayers Jr.
He says throwing in the towel is not an option.
“We need mentors to be in these kids’ lives and show them the right way,” said Sayers Jr.
“There’s a lot of shootings that go on in Aurora. Most people don’t do anything about it. But if you have a place like this—with people who are going to love on you, that’s the place that you should be at: somewhere that’s going to build you up instead of knocking you down.”
The martial arts program accepts children as young as 7-years-old.
Along with a martial arts gym, the community center has a computer lab, recreational room, and recording studio.