Faith-based Blues Gym Mentors Kids through Kickboxing, Living out God’s Word

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

dino1 (left to right): Artist Paul Collins and Dino Newville are the Blues Gym co-founders.Step inside the Blues Gym at 4248 Kalamazoo Ave. SE in Kentwood, and you’ll immediately see equipment associated with a physical fitness: a boxing ring, punching bags and gymnastic mats. But its co-founders, Dean “Dino” Newville and Paul Collins, see something beyond a room dedicated to training kids boxing, kickboxing and martial arts.

They see a place where at-risk youth learn from nonjudgmental instructors a better route to take that doesn’t involve drugs, where they learn morals and respect for police officers and themselves and realize the Word of God through deeds and actions.

Giving kids positive environment

If you get kids in a negative environment, I guarantee kids are going to grow up in the streets with bad attitudes,” said Collins, a Grand Rapids area artist who is renowned around the world for his realistic paintings. “You give them a positive environment, chances are those kids will be much more positive and have much more respect.”

Collins and Newville co-founded the Blues Gym in 1998. It is named after Newville’s father.

Former world champion kick boxer gives gym its credibility

Its Newville that gives the Blue Gym credibility not only because he is a former world champion kick boxer but because of how he regained a productive life after serving 17 years in prison for what originally was a life sentence.

His sentence was reduced when an inmate asked Newville to find him a hit man to kill a Kent County judge. Instead, Newville informed the police of the inmate’s intent, which put his life at risk when other inmates put a target on his back.

A judge eventually learned of Newville’s well-intentioned efforts and reduced his sentence, engendering in Newville an appreciation for police officers and an enthusiasm for mentoring kids.

Blues Gym’s mission

That is the central mission of the Blues Gym, a faith-based nonprofit.

dino2 The Blues Gym is located in Kentwood.An average of 300 kids learn self-defense free of charge at the Blues Gym. Many of them enroll because word-of-mouth.

“Parents check the program out and see how sincere we are,” said Newville. “They’ll tell me, ‘I saw how you treat the kids. This guy’s really changed his life.’ We have an opportunity to help a lot of people. Right now have we boys and girls and adults who attend. We have kids who are three years old attend.”

The co-founders of Blues Gym are a good fit. Both see the good in each other.

It’s about character

“What I like about Dino is he dusted himself off and realized he wanted to make sure kids didn’t make the same mistakes he did,” said Collins. “He performs a great leadership role in helping to keep kids off of the streets and have more self respect for themselves, their neighborhood and their friends.

“Most of all, he gets across the idea it’s not about your color, it’s about your character.”

What’s equally impressive about Newville, said Collins, is he walks the talk when it comes to living for the Lord.

Dino doesn’t push religion,” said Collins. “He practices religion. It’s one thing to talk about it or promote it but to really practice it. Once you practice it and show it, you don’t really have to tell anybody about it.

“And Dino is colorblind,” continued Collins. “He practices with what’s good about who you are and having self respect for yourself and your friends regardless of their color. We accomplish so much more when we put that aside and realize we are brothers and sisters.”

A big brother

Newville is equally appreciative of Collins, referring to him several times as his “big brother” who inspires him to accomplish good works.

dino3 Paul Collins and Dino Newville say its crucial the Blues Gym be a positive environment for kids.Paul Collins has taught me many, many things through the years,” said Newville. “Paul’s a teacher. Paul’s an artist, Paul is a man who reaches down and touches your life. How many people have a big brother like Paul? Paul taught me to be in control of my tongue, to speak carefully.”

What irks Collins is the amount of money spent to incarcerate offenders. A better option is a proactive one, like Blues Gym, that mentors kids in a positive environment, he said.

But what makes Blues Gym positive?

It’s hearing men like Newville talk about how the Lord changed his life. Its encouraging respect for law enforcement officials, bolstered by an occasional visit from police officers, it’s learning crime and drugs are a dead end. It’s learning self-respect.

“Most of the kids who go to prison learn how to do their tricks much better,” said Collins. “Sending kids to prison is a bad investment for their morals, for their character and for their money. We could spend less money and turn it into positive things and give kids a positive outlook.

Rather have kids hit Blues Gym

“In all organizations you’re going to have a couple of idiots but basically, cops are our heroes,” added Collins. “Every day they risk their lives. Think about 9-11. Everybody was running out and they were risking their lives.

“I want kids to realize cops are their friends. Once they hit the streets, we’re all in trouble. I’d rather have them hit the Blues Gym where they have a positive environment.”

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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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