About DBG

Our Mission

Studies show more than half of Michigan’s third-grade students can not read at their grade level. The numbers are even more alarming for students in urban communities like Detroit. That’s unacceptable. And we’re doing something to change it.

Since 2007, DBG has been providing our free academic and athletic program to students ages 8-18, with continuing mentorship and support through age 25. Students stay with DBG year after year after year. That long-term, personalized and holistic support makes a life-changing impact.

We have a 100% high school graduation rate since we opened our doors, a 15-year track record of success.

Our students are the doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs of the future. It all starts with the support they receive at DBG. Click the video player to learn about our impact from one of our DBG graduates.

The Downtown Boxing Gym is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Every dollar contributed helps us grow our program and changes lives.

DBG's History


Downtown Boxing Gym Founded

Khali Sweeney opens the Downtown Boxing Gym on Detroit’s east side, creating the type of safe, nurturing, empowering environment he wished he had as a kid. Our first location was in a former car wash on St. Aubin. Khali built the program from the ground up, then word of our mission began to spread and our team and supporters grew.




After witnessing the magic of DBG, Jessica Hauser puts her plans to pursue a PhD on hold and joins as Executive Director to help DBG grow. DBG earns its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.




With the help of generous partners and supporters, DBG purchases its 27,500 square foot building at 6445 E. Vernor Highway on Detroit’s east side and officially moves in. The building is a former bookbinding factory. Fitting, since our motto is books before boxing. Learn More.




Our founder and CEO is honored by CNN Heroes and named a Top 10 finalist. Actor Sterling K. Brown presented Khali’s award and read this line, “We can rise from any place as long as someone is there to push, inspire and love enough not only to make us dream big dreams, but to knock down any barrier that stands in our way.” Learn More.




Our inaugural UnGala fundraiser, celebrating the joys of being a kid, is held at DBG. We also unveiled our new logo and icon, the DBG lion, representing our fierce support for Detroit students and intense family pride. Learn More.



The greenest nonprofit

Our building undergoes a major overhaul with improvements like a new roof, 231 solar panels, insulation, a new HVAC system, and 38 energy-efficient windows. This sustainable project, made possible with the support of generous donors, helped cut our energy costs significantly. Learn More.



new sports and learning complex

DBG gets a new outdoor Sports & Learning Complex generously donated by the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation. The complex includes a multi-sport court, learning pavilion, ice skating rink, raised bed gardens, and more. Learn More.



NSF Grant + Library of Congress Literacy Award

DBG shines in the national spotlight with a major research grant and literacy award. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards a $2 million grant to Purdue University and DBG for a five-year research study of DBG’s innovative STEM-based programming. The Library of Congress Literacy Awards honors DBG in Washington, D.C. with the “American Prize” for making a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels in the U.S.



The Downtown Boxing Gym was founded in 2007 by internationally recognized coach and
youth mentor, Khali Sweeney. He opened the doors to our free, after-school academic and
athletic program (as we do every weekday) with passion, purpose and a mission to help
young people succeed.

Over the years, our team has grown to include our professional academic staff, volunteer
tutors, coaches and others to provide the resources and educational opportunities our
students need and deserve. Growing up, Khali didn’t have those things and he struggled. He
founded DBG to ensure students in and around the Detroit area have the support they need
to learn, thrive and accomplish great things. We’re proud to have a 100% high school
graduation rate since 2007. At DBG, we train kids for life.

DBG serves 150+ amazing boys and girls from 30 different zip codes and 57 schools across Detroit and nearby suburbs, each with their own unique talents and dreams.
Our students at DBG range in age from 8-18 years old, or 3rd-12th grade, and we continue to provide support to our students once they go off to college, through their junior year.
Our after-school program is 100% FREE to all students. That includes academic support, tutoring, mentorship, athletics, SAT/ACT prep, college and career readiness, nutritious meals, transportation and more, Monday-Friday, all-year-round. The only form of “payment” we require is that our students “pay it forward” and engage in community service projects 4 times a year.

DBG is funded through generous donations from foundations, corporations and individual
donors in our local community and around the world. We are truly thankful for this support
which helps to change young lives. If you’d like to learn more or make a donation, click here.
We are proud to be a ‘Crain’s Best Managed Nonprofit’ finalist.

We know the demand for our services is great. We currently have a waiting list and we’re
working hard to change that. When space opens up, we select students from our waiting
list, with a priority given to family members of current DBG students and students who are already enrolled at the schools that are existing partners of DBG.

Click here to learn more.

All incoming students sign a handbook that outlines our requirements and expectations for
successful participation in our program.

Some of the basics include:

  • Students must be 8-18 years of age
  • Have current report cards on file
  • Attend our program a minimum of 3 days per week
  • Align with DBG’s mission and family values
When the program is full, a student’s application will remain on file. At the beginning of each school year, we contact parents of students who remain on our list to update their application. New students are then selected based on program availability.
Endless possibilities. Caring, compassionate support from staff members, coaches and community volunteers. Real talk. A safe place to learn, grow and try new things. A family atmosphere. The chance to explore college and career possibilities and develop discipline, focus and life-direction. SAT/ACT prep. The opportunity to apply for internships and college scholarships. Exposure to corporate and community leaders, professional athletes, musicians and others. Plus: tutoring, mentorship, academic support, nutritious meals, athletics, enrichment programs (like computer coding, art and music), community service opportunities and so much more.

our partners


Good Morning America Fans!

Thank you for watching our Ray of Sunshine segment.

To honor Khali, DBG, and our impact, the KLA Foundation and Art VanElslander Foundation are generously matching $120,000 in donations to DBG.

Help secure our transformative STEAM Lab programming for the next school year.