The Downtown Boxing Gym is pleased to welcome Rakesh Aneja, who is taking the helm of DBG’s board of directors amid COVID-19. Rakesh has served on the DBG board since 2017. He began his new role in May.

Rakesh delivers opening remarks at DBG’s inaugural UnGala

When Rakesh Aneja first stepped foot inside the Downtown Boxing Gym several years ago, life was different. Dozens of students (without masks or social distancing restrictions) moved freely from class to class, to the library, the music studio, the STEAM Lab, and to their workouts. Today, DBG is still providing in-person full-day academic and athletic programming, but with a host of new COVID-19 related health and safety requirements from touch-free temperature screenings to mandatory masks to smaller groups that must stay together throughout the day.

So many things are uncertain – including what the new school year will look like – and taking on a new leadership role at at a time like this might seem like a daunting task. Not for Aneja, Head of Powertrain Engineering at Daimler Trucks North America. He became DBG’s new board chair in May.

“Individuals or even organizations are not defined by their challenges, but rather by the manner in which they respond to adversity,” he says. “I could not be prouder of DBG’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Initially, DBG pivoted quickly from a program inherently reliant on face-to-face interaction. The gym creatively transformed itself to provide more than 50 hours of virtual mentoring and tutoring content per week. Despite a significant hit on its funding sources, DBG continued to provide academic, technology, and physical fitness support to its students and even expanded its efforts in helping the community by providing essential food and supplies.”

Rakesh first joined DBG’s board in October 2017. He and his wife, Archana, and their two children, Saahil, 14, and Jiya, 9, have been active supporters of our program ever since.

The Aneja family – Rakesh, Saahil, Jiya and Archana

“I first learned about Coach Khali and the Downtown Boxing Gym when our company’s corporate giving program, DaimlerCares, was looking to collaborate with a nonprofit community service organization,” he recalls. “It is not too common that we come across beautiful, heartwarming stories like that of Khali and DBG which make us optimistic about our future. Turning his own adversity into a source of strength, Khali chose to devote his life to becoming a guiding light for children who may not necessarily have the opportunities they deserve.”

Rakesh will serve the DBG board by helping to set future strategy and goals and leveraging the board’s collective network and resources to realize those goals. He takes the reins from Julie Lodge-Jarrett, who recently relocated to Pennsylvania to begin a new job as Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer for DICK’S Sporting Goods. Julie started out as a volunteer with DBG in 2014. She later joined the board in 2017 and has worked tirelessly as our board chair over the last three years during a period of tremendous growth. Julie’s compassion and dedication made a lasting impact on our program. She will remain on the board through the end of the year.

“I have worked with a lot of nonprofit organizations over the last few decades. What makes DBG unique is that we’ve never wavered from our original mission, and as we’ve grown we have stayed true to our roots – serving the holistic needs of our kids, their families and our Detroit community,” she said. “Serving as board chair opened my eyes even further to the many underlying social injustices that still plague our communities today. It reinforced my belief that committed volunteers can help drive meaningful change, and it kept me humble and thankful to be part of something larger than myself.”

Julie (front row, center) with a group of DBG volunteers

We are truly grateful to have leaders like Julie and Rakesh in our corner. Please join us in thanking Julie for her service and welcoming Rakesh as DBG’s new board chair.

“Coach Khali reminds us often of the African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’ Aneja says. “Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and our livelihoods as we know it, and thus job number one will be helping the gym get through this crisis.”