If there is one person St Paul’s has helped above all others, it is Sarah Fenwick. It would be no understatement to say St Paul’s and boxing saved Sarah, and her life would not be the success it is without them.
Born to parents with drug problems and severe mental impairments, Sarah was taken into residential care at birth, where she stayed for the first two and half years of her life. Hope eventually came in the shape of adoptive parents and it looked like for the first time, she would have the things other children took for granted – a family and a place to call home. But tragically, that wasn’t to be, and still a toddler, Sarah soon found herself back in care again, where she would spend much of her childhood.
Residential care homes can be unforgiving places, Sarah admits, and are a last resort for children with a range of challenging issues. “You live with four of five children and lots of members of staff who change shift every day,” she recalls. “All the kids who live in those places have their problems. They can be hostile and difficult places to be.” So, it was no surprised that growing up, she fell in with the wrong crowd and started getting into trouble.
But amid the tragic circumstances of her young life, salvation came when she was placed on a Hull City Council initiative called No Limits, which involved going to St Paul’s Boxing Academy after school. Sarah never looked back. She fell in love with boxing and St Paul’s from the moment she walked through the door. “I remember going there for the first time,” she said. “We got to go in the ring and hit the bags. I just loved it and felt so good afterwards.
“At the time I was involved with the wrong crowd and getting in trouble with the Police, but boxing helped me put all that behind me. At St Paul’s, I found somewhere I belonged.”
As with so many troubled youngsters who have attended the club, Sarah said she owes a huge debt of gratitude to head coach Mike Bromby.
In his characteristic and caring style, Mike nurtured Sarah and for perhaps the first time in her life, made her feel good about herself.
“Mike is phenomenal, he believed in me,” she said. To have someone believe in you and tell you you’re good at something is incredible. That’s what he did for me.”
Years later, Sarah set up The Tree Fellas Hull with partner Gareth. The successful company has been running for 15 months and has won multiple awards including the best arboricultural enterprise in East Yorkshire.
But boxing continues to play a big part in her life, helping her manage her own mental health constructively, and relieving the stress of running a business.
“I owe so much of where I am to St Paul’s, Mike and to boxing,” she says.
“They picked me up when I was at my lowest and the lessons they taught me have helped keep me there ever since.”