North Las Vegas youth club struggles to stay open

Richard Steele never would accuse Gov. Brian Sandoval of being a grinch. But unless a secret, or not so secret, Santa emerges, it’s going to be a miserable post-Christmas for 125 North Las Vegas youth.

Steele’s community youth center has lost its grant money from the state, and unless he can raise at least $40,000 in the next three weeks, Steele will be forced to close his nonprofit youth center and boxing club on West Cheyenne Avenue, which has been in existence for 17 years.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” said Steele, who worked 30 years as a referee before retiring in 2003. “I don’t want to see these kids back out on the streets. We’ve had as many as 200 kids participate at one time. But I’ve been shelling out of my own pocket the last two months, and my pockets are empty.”

So are the state’s. The legislature was able to foot a good portion of the costs for Steele’s center. Of the roughly $250,000 annual operating costs, $205,000 came from Carson City. But in an attempt to achieve a balanced budget, tough decisions have had to be made, and programs such as Steele’s severely have been impacted as the legislature implemented cuts.

The City of North Las Vegas is in no position to help given its fiscal issues. So Steele is hoping for the private sector to help keep his community center’s doors open.

“We’ve had help from the state the last four years, and we are very appreciative of their support in the past,” Steele said. “But this year, there was nothing coming (from the state), and we’ve had a hard time trying to find support.

“I’ve had to lay off staff and cut out classes. We’re trying to help a lot of at-risk kids and educate them so they don’t return to the streets. But if we can’t get this figured out by the end of the month, we’re going to have to close the doors. A lot of hard work would have been wasted, and I’d hate to see that happen.”

The center’s website (steeleboxing.com) has information regarding the various programs and a place on its home page to make donations.

■ WISH COMES TRUE – John Rocero always wanted to meet Manny Pacquiao, his favorite fighter. It finally happened last week.

The Stockton, Calif., teenager attended Saturday’s showdown between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Rocero, 18, suffers from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of malignant brain tumor.

He and Pacquiao met Thursday.

■ RAMIREZ WINS DEBUT – Jose Ramirez, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, scored a first-round technical knockout over Corey Seigwarth in his pro debut Saturday. The lightweight bout was part of the Pacquiao-Marquez undercard.

Ramirez started quickly, going to the head and body. Three straight shots to the body sent Seigwarth (2-2) down midway through the round. He beat the count of referee Vic Drakulich but was in no shape to continue. After another flurry of blows by Ramirez, Drakulich stopped the fight at 2:05 of the round.

“It was a whole different experience,” the 20-year-old Ramirez said. “I didn’t know what it was going to feel like until I experienced it. I felt great. I was a little tense, but I felt strong in there. Hopefully my next fight, I’ll be able to control my nerves a little bit better.”

■ SILVER NUGGET CARD – North Las Vegas Center Ring Boxing will have its final amateur show of 2012 at 6 p.m. Friday at the Silver Nugget. Several local amateurs will fight on the 20-bout card.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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