Boxer Whittaker plotting Olympic and Commonwealth path
Tokyo 2020 hopeful Ben Whittaker hailed the life-changing impact National Lottery funding is having in Birmingham thanks to the work of the Pat Benson Boxing Academy.
The National Lottery funded boxer visited the gym in Small Heath to find out how the club has helped transform the lives of people from the local community.
Aided over the last 25 years by the National Lottery, the gym has helped members tackle depression and provided support to young people in danger of a falling in with the wrong crowd.
The National Lottery's Get Active Brum campaign showcases the £761 million in National Lottery funding that has gone to Birmingham over the last 25 years and promotes the incredible sporting opportunities in the run up to the Commonwealth Games 2022.
And with clubs like the Pat Benson Boxing Academy that have benefited from the funding, West Bromwich fighter Whittaker praised the National Lottery for the difference it is making to those in the local community.
"It's great to see the support the National Lottery are providing a club like this because they have state of the art facilities and it shows they are using it to their full advantage," he sad
"It is good to see local people coming down and getting involved, it's only right I get involved as well and I would love to see everyone get behind the Get Active Brum campaign.
"They are making great use of their National Lottery funding at the academy and they have all different classes, all different people coming down, and that's what we want to see.
"This area is pretty rough and they are getting people off the streets and giving them a bit of discipline, not only that but getting normal people out of their armchairs and getting them fit.
"The funding has also allowed me to progress as boxing is my full time job, I don't have to worry about if the money is going to come in, I don't have to worry about a job.
"It's full time focus on my boxing and going to the Olympics. It's also good to give back because I'm a local lad and the next Commonwealth Games will be in Birmingham."
The Small Heath Club has also benefited from Sport England funding over the past decade, helping them enhance capacity as well as introduce new programmes such as Camp Fitness and Junior Mind Fit.
Two community projects run by the Pat Benson Boxing Academy in particular show the difference National Lottery players are making by buying tickets for the millionaire-making national game.
Supported with £47,500 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Fighting for our Heritage encouraged young volunteers to carry out research, production and interviews with the people who have shaped boxing in Birmingham over the last 70 years.
Another project, supported with more than £300,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund, addresses community issues such as mental health, women's well-being and anti-social behaviour.
And academy manager Paddy Benson, grandson of the academy's figurehead Pat Benson, revealed the club would not be able to transform the lives of as many people without the funding.
"Our club really is a community hub," he said. It's so well known in and around the city and the reputation is growing not just from a boxing point of view but from a community point of view.
"Our projects are very successful, their reputations are growing every day and we've gone from being a boxing club that produces national champions and stages boxing shows to much more.
"We're now a fit-for-purpose organisation that delivers bespoke mental health programmes, education programmes and a number of intervention programmes. We're more than a boxing club
"Without the National Lottery funding organisations like this couldn't exist, or they could exist but on a far smaller scale - they would be volunteer led and you can't scale up.
"So National Lottery funding has allowed us to move from being a volunteer-led club on a very small scale to being a professional organisation which is key to us."
One of those to have benefitted from the Pat Benson Boxing Academy's sessions is Martyn Webb, 32, a part-time labourer, who said he couldn't thank the coaches at the club enough.
"I've had a lot of benefits since I started coming to sessions," he said. "My health, fitness, mental health and just that feel-good factor, I just feel a lot better in myself all around really."
Birmingham and Solihull have recently been awarded an incredible £10 million in National Lottery funding to deliver the Active Communities Pilot, which will tackle physical inactivity.
It will support groups of people who are less likely to be active by working collaboratively with local organisations, volunteers and local people to help improve their quality of life.