Rapper’s fundraising initiative for the youth tutoring program runs through Aug. 31

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Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym is getting a helping hand from Eminem.

Through his record label Shady Records and his Marshall Mathers Foundation, the rapper is currently soliciting donations from fans to benefit the after-school youth tutoring program, which helps kids age 7-18 with academics and athletic training. Em’s goal is to raise enough money to enroll 15 additional students in the program, which has a waiting list of more than 500 hopefuls.

“We’d like to raise enough to let in 150 kids,” says Jessica Hauser, Downtown Boxing Gym’s executive director of fundraising. “It’s heartbreaking to have to turn kids away. We tell people about the waiting list, and they say, ‘Oh wow, that’s great!’ No it’s not great, it’s heartbreaking.”

The Downtown Boxing Gym program, located on Detroit’s east side, was founded in 2007 by Carlo “Coach Khali” Sweeney. Since its inception, it boasts a 100-percent high school graduation rate for its students.

Em’s involvement with the Downtown Boxing Gym began when scenes for his “Guts Over Fear” video were shot at the facility last year. The partnership runs concurrent with Eminem’s involvement in “Southpaw,” the boxing film starring Jake Gyllenhaal for which Shady Records produced the soundtrack. Early on, Em was pegged to star in the film.

“We heard about the Downtown Boxing Gym and thought the ‘Southpaw’ release would be a great way to help raise awareness and funding for their program,” Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg said by email Tuesday. “They have a great story and really seem to impact kids lives in Detroit in a serious way.”

The free program currently enrolls 65 elementary, middle and high school-aged students at a cost of $1,200 per student, Hauser says. The program runs daily from 2:30 to 7 p.m. and includes academic tutoring, college preparation, interview training and mentorship in various life skills — not just boxing.

“Boxing is the carrot to dangle to get them in,” she says.

Earlier this month the gym moved from its original location, a 4,000-square-foot former car wash on St. Aubin between Warren and Forest, to its new location, a 27,000-square foot facility at the corner of East Vernor and Beaufait. The new building was secured thanks in part to Madonna, who donated an undisclosed sum of money to the program in 2014.

Eminem’s fundraising campaign, which is being held through the crowdfunding website klickly.com, runs through Aug. 31, and Eminem is matching all donations that are made.

Fans who donate will be entered to win a pair of “Southpaw” boxing gloves autographed by Eminem, and one grand prize winner will receive a handwritten letter from Em.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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