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A passion for boxing
Local family shares passion for boxing by opening gym in DuBois

DUBOIS — A local girl and her family have opened a nonprofit boxing gym to help others find a passion and stress reliever.

Aviana Gillaugh and her parents, Gregg and Tonya Gillaugh, opened TurnaBout Boxing in DuBois to share the benefits of boxing with others in the community. The gym is located at 200 S. Brady St. in DuBois, in the downstairs of a church.

Aviana first found boxing at 9 years old at a birthday party, and asked her parents if she could try it. Her father, Gregg, has some experience with boxing, but was never serious about it.

Her parents agreed to let her try it and started taking her to a gym for lessons. They started working with BC Boxing in Brockway, then were recommended to go to Hellman’s in Punxsutawney for further instruction.

Aviana, now 14, has been asking her parents for several years about opening up their own gym. The family began having conversations about what the gym would be and what it would stand for.

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” Gregg said. “What do you want it to be, how do you want it to operate, what do you want it to stand for, what does boxing mean to you as an individual because we wanted it to be about her and kind of design it around what her vision was, what her feelings were on the sport, and what it did for her.”

Aviana is listed as the founder, but since she is a minor, her parents’ names are on the paperwork for now. Gregg is the head coach, as well as a referee/judge for the western half of Pennsylvania, and Tonya Gillaugh is the president and referee/judge and member of the USA Boxing Allegheny Mountain Board of Directors for the local branch chapter.

“It’s just a really good stress reliever for me. So if I’m anxious I can just go to a gym and hit the bag and take all my anger out on that,” Aviana said.

Gregg said before boxing, his daughter was in dance class and singing lessons, but when she asked about boxing, they weren’t sure about it. They figured it was good exercise and agreed to sign her up for lessons somewhere.

“We thought ‘well we’ll see if it lasts,’ and she started throwing mits and bag work, and then she started doing CrossFit back at BC as well and she was doing both and then a year and a half later she said ‘am I ever going to compete?’” Gillaugh said.

He said they made sure she was serious about it, making it clear that competing meant she would get hit. This is when Gregg became more involved with the coaching. Aviana spars with people regularly, but will be in her first competition today, Nov. 5, in Altoona.

Aviana is homeschooled, which gives her a more flexible schedule to work in her boxing practice and workout. On average, she said she is doing a two-hour workout in the morning, and then does two to three hours of boxing at night, six days a week.

“I’m nervous, but I’m excited though,” Aviana said.

She said she stays motivated by telling herself she’ll take a break the next day, but will get up and go to the gym anyway.

Gregg said sometimes all a boxer needs is a break to recover from the physical and mental fatigue. He said the sport has a tendency to draw people with various problems, mental and physical, because of the benefits it has been found to offer.

“To be successful in the sport, they need to fully trust their coach, because when you’re instructing them in the corner, their life is literally being placed in your hands. It’s your job to throw in the towel if there’s a problem,” Gregg said. “We are often involved in people’s lives well beyond just the gym or competition.”

He said this is where the gym’s slogan came from, “champions in the ring, champions in life, and “going toe-to-toe to knock out life’s challenges.” He hopes they teach lessons that carry over into the athletes personal lives.

Gillaugh said he and his wife saw such changes in Aviana, including improved self confidence, self discipline and improvement in grades, and they hope to bring that benefit to others.

Though she can’t be a licensed coach yet, Aviana often works with the newer boxers and will spar with adults. Gregg said she’s been doing it long enough that she can help people with some of the training. They often have the more advanced boxers work with the newer ones to help teach self-confidence, Gregg explained.

To those who think they might be interested in boxing, Aviana said “You’re going to have to do a lot of bag work and shadow boxing, but it’s a good stress reliever. It can be fun too, if you really like it, it will be fun.

“I like helping people and like seeing them enjoy it and have fun,” she said.

Aviana followed by saying she is hoping more girls join the gym, as there are all guys registered now besides herself.

The gym officially opened in October, and has about a dozen boxers registered. They are accepting new members who have never boxed before, to those with some experience. Anyone 12 years old and older can sign up with the gym. They will accept those who are only seeking boxing fitness and aren’t interested in competing.

The Gillaughs have also partnered with other boxing gyms in the region to create 814 National Boxing. Most boxers in the area have to travel for any competitions, so to foster a relationship with the gyms around the region, 814 was formed.

“It’s just in its infancy because it’s just getting rolling,” Gillaugh said. “It’s more like a club, it’s a club structure.”

Gyms representing Altoona, Johnstown, Penn State, Erie and others are all grouped under this name. The idea is it creates a larger pool of coaches and resources for each gym to pull from, and to visit and spar with as a group.

“We wanted to be able to provide a club with coaches and boxers… that would collectively come together, enhance the training and support each other in the network and also help provide greater opportunities to go to national tournaments,” Gillaugh said. “We wanted to provide the boxers with more opportunities to expand beyond just the LBC (Local Branch Chapter) in the western half of Pennsylvania.”

He is a believer of getting his athletes the best coaching he can, and if they work better with a different coach, he would rather that coach take a lead role with the athlete.

Anyone interested can find the gym on Facebook as TurnaBout Boxing, or go to their website, for more information.

Poland of St. Marys receives Champions of the PA Wilds 'Great Design Award'

ST. MARYS — Mickayla Poland of St. Marys, founder of PA Made, is the recipient of this year’s Champions of the PA Wilds “Great Design Award.”

The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship announced the 2021 Champions of PA Wilds Awards recipients in early October. The awards, typically distributed during the PA Wilds Center’s annual dinner, are being distributed in small groups this year due to COVID-19, according to the press release.

Poland is a graphic designer and painter who shows much passion and support for wildlife in her work. She has also worked with the Elk County Conservation District on projects, such as creating colorful storm drain murals for Elk County Upstream Art, and promoting keeping stormwater and runoff water clean, according to the PA Wilds Center’s press release.

After finding out she won, Poland said she was speechless and emotional. She has been working with the PA Wilds throughout the past couple of years, and they have helped her grow her business.

“In my opinion, PA Made and the PA Wilds have a lot in common... our love for the region,” said Poland.

It all started with just a couple of paintings in 2017, which has quickly grown into designing stickers, T-shirts, buttons, murals and much more. A self-taught painter, Poland focuses on “the accuracy of the animals and the environments” she creates, she said.

“I like to look back and compare how the quality of my painting has changed and improved over the years, and it’s my goal to improve more,” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow.”

Born in southern California, Poland said she was blown away by the beautiful region when she moved to the area.

“The site of a bulging elk backdropped with rolling mountains as far as the eye can see still takes my breath away, and those moments that I hope to capture in my art,” she said. “It’s important to promote wildlife and conservation, so generations to come can enjoy them as I do.”

Many of her designs on stickers, T-shirts and other products are inspired by things people love about the area, including elk country and its landscape, she said. Her designs are also sold on stickers at PA Wilds Conservation Shops, and she has worked with the PA Wilds on Kinzua Bridge Skywalk and PA Wilds Marker Market logo designs.

Poland is also known for her customized work, such as creating very realistic paintings of people’s pets or wildlife on windows canvases, which they can proudly display in their homes.

Through her art and PA Made, Poland is grateful for opportunities she has had to work with youth and adults, like visiting on “career day” at South St. Marys Street Elementary School and working with third-graders to discuss graphic design and more. She is also a teaching artist through Elk County Council on the Arts (ECCOTA)’s “Arts in Education” program, and has taught two residencies.

Passionate about the Upstream Art Project, Poland painted her third mural at Fox Township Community Park this past summer.

“I hope to continue to work with the public to share art and my passion for wildlife,” she said.

Again focusing on spotlighting and preserving beautiful things in Pennsylvania, Poland recently designed stickers that say things like “Save the critters, don’t litter,” a message she says has spread all over the country.

Poland has also had the chance to work with organizations that share the same values and missions as herself, such as the Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA), Pheasants Forever and, of course, PA Wilds.

“I’ve realized how much outdoorsmen deeply care about promoting conservation and wildlife, so they and generations to come can continue to hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors.”

Poland accepted the “Great Design Award” alongside the Elk County Commissioners at the Elk County Courthouse Nov. 3.

Visit PA Made on Facebook for more information.

Clearfield County Commissioners take new action to allow immigration detention center to operate

CLEARFIELD — Clearfield County Commissioners at a special meeting on Wednesday ratified two decisions made at a late September meeting to allow a federal immigration detention center to operate in Clearfield County.

There were two items on the meeting’s agenda. The first was to reaffirm an agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement for Clearfield County to operate a federal immigration detention center. The second was to reaffirm the global agreement with the GEO Group to reopen the former Decatur Township private prison facility and operate the same as a federal immigration center for Clearfield County pursuant to the county’s agreement with ICE. Both motions passed unanimously.

The meeting was held in response to a lawsuit filed against the commissioners by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania for allegedly failing to follow the state’s Sunshine Law when the board voted to approve five-year contracts to open the former Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility to serve as an immigration detention facility at its Sept. 28 meeting.

The complaint, filed on behalf of two persons — Timothy Smith of Osceola Mills and Yvonne Reedy, no address provided, and Juntos, a Latino and Hispanic immigrant organization, based in Philadelphia, said the commissioners failed to post the Sept. 28 meeting agenda prior to the meeting as required by the state’s Sunshine Law.

Solicitor Heather Bozovich said the agenda was posted, but lacked a few hours of being published a full 24 hours prior to the meeting, although the commissioners believed it had been available the required amount of time.

Bozovich said a hearing was to have been held Wednesday morning concerning a motion filed for a special and preliminary injunction in relation to the lawsuit, but the hearing was not held because the party that filed the complaint withdrew its motion. Bozovich said she believed it was pulled because the motion was satisfied by the commissioners scheduling Wednesday’s meeting.

She reported the state’s Sunshine Law was amended this summer and changes took effect Aug. 31. She said the county is taking steps to ensure its agendas are published within the timeframe of the amendment, which requires meeting agendas be available to the public 24 hours prior to a meeting being held.

Commissioner Dave Glass said during the meeting he wished that those who were unsettled about the agreements had reached out to the commissioners to express their concerns, rather than filing a lawsuit. He said those who didn’t want to speak during the public comment portion of a meeting could have scheduled another time to meet with the board.

“I wish people had reached out. Our doors are always open,” Glass said.

A public comment period was held prior to the votes. Thirteen residents, social and business organization members and former employees of the GEO Group spoke. Several spoke about how professionally well-run the facility was when it was a prison and said they have no reason to believe it will be operated any differently when it is a detention facility.

Several immigrant group advocates from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia encouraged the commissioners not to approve the agreements, stating they don’t believe the board understands how the immigrants would be treated there. They spoke about the inhumane conditions in similar facilities and noted the GEO Group has a number of alleged human rights violations for other similar facilities.

Several said they believed the commissioners had not provided enough opportunities for the public to voice their opinion on the facility’s agreements prior to acting on them, and that a meeting held at 2 p.m. during a work day is not conducive to allowing the public to attend.

Resident Chuck Wilson told the board, “I think you were trying to do your best to keep the community out of the comments,” he said, noting how difficult it would be for someone who worked to be present at the mid-afternoon meeting. “This is wrong. You are not doing justice for those in the community. You should not sign those (agreements) till the community has the right to know,” Wilson said.

Each of the commissioners spoke prior to the vote about why they believe their approval is right for Clearfield County and its residents. Commissioner John Sobel said, “I believe in the opportunity to restore family-sustaining jobs to Clearfield County. I believe that the facility will be in the best public interests of Clearfield County.”

Glass said while he has concerns, he thinks the positives outweigh the negatives in regard to opening a detention center. He said prior to a deluge of emails in the last 24 hours, the only comments he had received after the Sept. 28 meeting were ones that supported the board’s actions because of the benefits to the local community and the county’s economy.

Commissioner Tony Scotto said, “It has never been Clearfield County’s quest to crush immigrants’ dreams,” he noted, telling the audience his grandparents were Italian immigrants who became American citizens. “There are laws set by the federal government that people who come to this country have to follow. We have an opportunity to have a facility here that is part of those laws. That facility will provide jobs for our residents,” Scotto said.