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If the only thing the Downtown Boxing Gym taught was how to throw punches, it wouldn’t be part of the Detroit News’ Holiday Cheer for Charity project.

Blessedly, there’s more to the gym than that. But is there $20,000 more?

That’s up to you.

Fifteen local charities are vying for votes in online balloting that ends Thursday, Dec. 14. One will emerge victorious in January with a $20,000 check from Priority Health, the Grand Rapids-based health insurance provider partnering with The News to bring some extra attention to a cluster of good causes and some extra holiday jingle to one.

To vote, visit DetroitNews.com/CharityCheer. First-round voting continues through 11:59 p.m. Dec. 14. After that, the field narrows to five nonprofits for the final round, Dec. 19-31, where every dollar donated via Crowdrise counts as a vote.

The second round is a call for donations. The organization to raise the most funds in this round will be be awarded the $20,000 grand prize from Priority Health and The Detroit News.

All five finalists will keep the money they raise, with one adding the $20,000 prize.

The list of contenders includes familiar names, such as Focus: HOPE, CATCH and Greening of Detroit; two agencies devoted to teens (Teen HYPE and Wish Upon a Teen); one devoted to activity and one devoted to sleep (YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and Sweet Dreamzzz), and one that uses pugilism as a tool to teach lessons on hard work, responsibility and the importance of academics.

Joan Budden, president and CEO of Priority Health, explained the company's involvement in this program. “Charitable organizations play a critical role in the lives of so many individuals, providing resources and support that may otherwise be out of reach. We are honored to be able to partner with The Detroit News to help provide both funding and visibility for the great work that these organizations are doing every day.”

“At Priority Health," she added, "we are focused on improving the health and well-being of the communities in which our members and employees live, work and play.”

Carolyn Geck, development director of the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit, said: “We have a waiting list of 850 students.” With 150 youths participating, all on scholarship for the $1,800 cost per year, $20,000 “is a significant amount of money for us.”

The goal, she said, is to expand enrollment to 250 by 2020 — which means adding academic staff and the resources to keep “digging in deep with our kids.”

“We need to learn about their academic situation. We need to know the dynamics at home,” Geck said. Every new participant is an iceberg, with costs beneath the surface, but one particular number tells her it’s worth the cost and commitment: Each of the 272 students who’ve stayed with the program through high school has earned a diploma.

Is that a $20,000 achievement? Time — and your votes — will tell.

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