Peggy Maertz, owner of Bulldogs Fitness and Boxing Centre in Salmon Arm, has found her life’s calling.
“I really feel like I found what I’m called to do,” Maetz said. “This is exactly the place I was looking for where I could belong, exactly as I was. A place to be safe, be vulnerable and a place to grow.”
A former sheriff, the boxer suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.). She took time off to try to heal herself and stumbled into coaching students on how to box.
Eventually, she started to train all types of students, especially those with cognitive and physical disabilities.
From those with Parkinson’s, autism and even cerebral palsy to others in wheelchairs or with visual impairment, everyone is welcomed and encouraged to be the best version of themselves.
“A lot of pieces I was searching for and just didn’t have so I created this space so I could have it,” Maertz said. “This is truly a family.”
Participants can’t say enough about the positive impact the centre has made and the physical, social and mental strength the sport has provided them.
Brandi Budds is the mother of a son who has autism. Life at home was very difficult before Brody discovered boxing.
“Brody started off very anti-social. I would get phone calls that he’s sitting under the stairs and won’t socialize with other kids,” Butts said. “Very overweight. Very awkward.”
Five years after starting lessons at Bulldogs, Brody is a completely different young man.
“He has lost almost 100 pounds. He was nominated for the B.C. Autism Inaugural Award for Self Advocate of the Year,” Butts said. “He’s become an advocate in the community, speaking at public events on autism, singing the praises of boxing and how it has changed his life. Now he’s on his way to becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon.”
The proud mother got very emotional about the incredible changes in her son’s demeanor and outlook.
“To see him all of a sudden being part of the community and part of a social group was phenomenal,” Butts said. “I had tears in my eyes watching the changes that he’s gone through.”
Cheryl Ogloff has been boxing at the centre for several years. She said it has helped her cope with many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
“My upper body’s gotten stronger. My balance is better. My aerobic breathing is better. It’s strengthening my bones,” Ogloff said. “And when someone starts to shake, we don’t all stare at them. We know what’s going on.”
Another student, Maureen Fisher, who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, says the classes are the best part of her week.
“I don’t look at things as ‘I can’t do it.’ I have to try it first and, if I can do it I do. It turned out that it was a lot of fun,” Fisher said. “I miss hardly any classes at all.”
Maertz is encouraging new participants in wheelchairs, as well as those with Down Syndrome or vision impairment, to get involved in the centre.
She also has a callout to the community — she needs help getting the centre and the boxing ring fully accessible with ramps and bars. Those who can help are encouraged to get in touch with the centre.
“It’s hard to comprehend the impact you have on someone else’s life,” said Maertz. “I don’t know if they know how I feel about them and how important they are to me. I just feel blessed.”