Bridges Beyond Boxing recently took a very special group of very special athletes from Detroit to Ireland.
"It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had," said 19-year-old Hassain Bilal.
Bilal said he never dreamed boxing would take him on the adventures it has. "I’ve never been out of the United States, but when Valerie came up to us and told us this was going to be a good experience… I was thinking negative. There’s no way we’re gonna get out of the country, we’re going to save up that much money."
Valerie Torres is the executive director of Bridges Beyond Boxing. It’s a non profit organization that connects the boxing world in Detroit, with it’s counterpart all the way in Ireland.
"We wanted to bring kids that were deserving of a trip, give them an opportunity to do things that they wouldn’t be able to do," said Torres.
So people in Detroit and in Ireland underwent a months-long fundraising effort to turn the dream of this international competition into a reality.
"We had fundraisers, we had a GoFundMe account, we had a Facebook page," said Torres.
A dozen Detroit athletes traveled to Belfast for a week of sightseeing and training, staying with host families and really being immersed in the culture.
"I didn’t go out there just to box, I went out there to have fun and see how it is to live out there," said boxer Cameran Pankey.
The trip culminated in a big Fight Night pitting the Detroit fighters against the Irish ones.
"I’ve experienced so much and I’ve learned so many things that are new. Now I come here and it makes me think how different the world is, how different the cultures are and stuff….it’s just one of the best things," said Bilal.