My new hero is Sally Hazelgrove.
This petite determined woman founded “Crushers Club” in one of the most terrifying neighborhoods in the country – Englewood in Chicago. Gang banging and shootings abound; opportunities to escape that lifestyle don’t.
Hazelgrove grew up in Naperville. She started reading and thinking about the teens being shot in Englewood long ago. Soon she was volunteering and later working in the juvenile protection system there.
Five years ago she moved her family of three kids – now ages 10, 11 and 16 – to Englewood and started asking the young males loitering on street corners what activity would motivate them to try harder in school and help them see a future beyond Englewood. Their answer – boxing. They promised to change bad attitudes and get better grades in exchange for leaving school 20 minutes early to learn to box.
Hazelgrove single handedly obtained a grant for funding and a 12,000 square foot space in a local church to launch “Crushers Club.” Its’ mission is to be the strongest alternative to gangs. and it uses four ideals—respect, discipline, ownership, and love—to give its members a fighting chance.
The program quickly grew to include activities beyond boxing – including a cobbled together recording studio, because Hazelgrove told a talented musician that “I’ll build a recording studio if you give up your gun and gang banging.” Spaces also exist for homework help, “quiet talk” (similar to one of one counseling), dancing, poetry, art and more.
Hazelgrove’s goal: Train kids 8 – 18 to be the leaders who transform the lives of the younger kids in the community.Crusher Club cost per person: $3500 per person
Taxpayer Cost per person for incarceration: $27,500+ per year
I met a wonderful young man who is an example of Crushers Club’s good work – Tyvon Jones.
Jones is shy, sensitive, musical and shell shocked. Friends who lived on both sides of his home have been murdered. He composes music to try to help heal himself and others from all of this violence. He desperately wants a “good job” away from Englewood. He thinks he just landed one as a server at a banquet hall in Chicago, but he needs the right attire – shoes, belt and clean, white shirt.