Close to $37,500 was raised at a recent black tie dinner to support the Naenae Boxing Academy and help former boxer Billy Graham give more boys in Naenae the chance of a better future.
Guests at Wellington Town Hall were blown away by the passion and enthusiasm of the guest speaker, ballet dancer Li Cunxin, who became known around the world as Mao’s last dancer. Li was at the Naenae Youth Charitable Trust’s second fundraising dinner to speak about his amazing journey from a poverty stricken life growing up in rural china to becoming a world renowned ballet dancer.
Li also visited the boxing academy to speak to the club’s young men, who, through discipline and hard work, and the help of internationally renowned Kiwi boxer Billy Graham, have turned their lives around.
Like many of these young men, Li’s life started out as difficult. But through passion, commitment and unwavering spirit he was able to turn his life around. At 11 Li was selected by Madame Mao's cultural advisers to begin a harsh seven-year training regime at the Beijing Dance Academy. He danced for 16 years in the United States as part of the Huston Ballet, and performed around the world with some of the best ballet companies. He now lives in Australia with his wife and three children.
The Naenae Boxing Academy was formed in 2006 by Billy Graham, an internationally celebrated boxer with NZ and Australian light welterweight boxing titles to his name. The Academy was a life-long dream for Billy who was inspired by his own experiences of growing up as a troubled young boy in Naenae.
The academy is having a hugely positive impact on the local Naenae community by giving the boys a sense of identity, belonging and self worth. There has been a significant reduction in graffiti in Naenae and in association with the Hutt City Council Billy and the boys have instigated and helped with the repainting of retail shops in Naenae at no cost to the retailers. This really helped improve the retail image around the town.
The money was raised through ticket sales and an auction on the night.