A community fights for its youth. All those responsible for getting the Wairarapa Youth Charitable Trust up and running checking out the new facility on Dixon St. Laurence Titter is fourth from left in the back row, and Billy Graham is fourth from left in the front row. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Masterton’s Laurence Titter knows better than most the role a boxing academy can play in turning a life around.

About 10 years ago, he was on the wrong path with the wrong people, but he walked into Billy Graham’s Naenae Boxing Academy and it changed his ways.

Now Wairarapa’s youth have the same chance.

Titter runs the Wairarapa Boxing Academy and has been working for 18 months to get the Wairarapa Youth Charitable Trust up and running.

On Monday, the trust officially opens a dedicated gym at the St John hall on Dixon St, though registrations for the academy will be taken from 10am-12pm on Saturday.

It will be a place where Wairarapa youth aged from nine to 18 can go to box, or simply help themselves in other aspects of their lives.

“A lot of people get wrapped up in the boxing side, but it’s more about youth development,” Titter said.

“Boxing is a by-product of what we’re doing.”

Graham’s work with youth in his Naenae academy is well known, and the Wairarapa academy will be modelled on his set-up.

Titter said they wanted to be there for the youth whenever needed — the phone will not switch off at 5pm.

“If you need help at 10pm, we’re there, and there’s always someone who will listen and help them out.

“Most of our youth aren’t having their issues in the middle of the day, but at midnight.”

Titter has always dreamed of having his own gym, but said the boxing side of it would be secondary to helping youth embrace the values of respect, responsibility, compassion, consideration, kindness, duty, obedience and honesty, and truthfulness.

Titter said it wouldn’t matter if he had 1000 kids in the gym but only one fighter.

“We want to teach kids what values life can give you, and take kids who have lost their way and get them back on the right path.”

Graham said the support Titter had received from the community was outstanding, as it was something that could not be done by one person.

“It will be great for the region — other sports people will want to come in here.

“Laurence is the right guy at the right time to take this on.”

Graham said it was pleasing to see his set-up being duplicated at other venues, and he too believed boxing was secondary to the important life lessons and discipline the children who participated would receive.

The project has the backing of some influential people, with all three Wairarapa mayors, as well as local and national police, showing their support for the venture.

Sergeant Dave Stone of New Zealand Police said the programme had a successful track record of youth development.

“Our commissioner Mike Bush firmly believes in this process.

“It’s a unique relationship these academies have with police, and what they teach ties in nicely with police values.”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said it was something the Wairarapa community would benefit from.

“It’s got a lot of support from right across the community, and the police are also involved as they are with Naenae.

“Laurence is really committed to it, and I think he’ll be the right person to lead it.”

Titter said it would not have been possible to get to this point without the help of Richard McNaughton at Water-Mart, Trust House, the rotary clubs of Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa, local and national police, Stacy Langford, Adam Parker, Jason Osborne, Bob Francis, Frazer Mailman, the Billy Graham Youth Foundation, and his wife Channyn Titter.