There’s a little bit of everything going on at Hardknocks Training Center on Clay Street in Portsmouth. Young men are boxing, doing karate, judo, mixed martial arts and more, and Fourth District Court of Appeals Judge Marie Hoover and her attorney husband Tracy Hoover have taken an interest in the non-profit gym and on Wednesday night, put in an appearance as part of a Christmas party.
The children in attendance got to sit on the lap of one Santa Claus and tell him what they want for Christmas. Cupcakes, cookies and smiles were being served to all of those in attendance.
“We’re just trying to get the kids together and let them have some fun,” Tracy Hoover said. “This is where they work, but I just wanted to mix some fun in so that everybody has a good time.”
As Santa settled in for the children, the reason for the gathering was obvious.
“We’re just donating some head gear, medicine balls and some things like that,” Marie Hoover said. “It’s really just to spread some Christmas cheer to the kids. A lot of the kids can’t afford this stuff and it’s necessary when you’re training. It’s really for the safety for the kids, and really just to spread some Christmas this year.”
Hoover said the Hardknocks Training Center seemed to fit right into their plans to help.
“We were trying to think of a cause to help kids right now at this time of year, especially,” Marie Hoover said. “We can’t think of anything better, especially with our background in martial arts.”
Phil Bender, who operates the training center said there is a reason he opens the gym to the community
“I drive through town. I was burn here. I was raised on the east end, and I see the shape this town’s in and I see these kids wandering around with nothing to do,” Bender said. “Some of them don’t play football. They don’t play basketball; they don’t have that. This gives them a different option.”
The Hoovers agree.
“I think it’s great because it helps kids, especially with the bullying problems in the schools right now,” Marie Hoover said. “It’s great for that, because it gives kids some self-confidence and it teaches them some self-defense too, if and when they need it. It’s a great program. It gets kids off the streets. It gives them something to work toward and it’s great for physical fitness too.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.