OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Wednesday night as many families were prepping for Thanksgiving, boxers were stepping into the ring for a good cause.
This is the second year the Blue Collar Boxing event has come to the Ralston Arena.
The fighters are members of the local labor unions, and the event is a major fundraiser for United Way of the Midlands and the Nebraska Center for Workforce Development and Education.
Shawna Forsberg, President and CEO of United Way of the Midlands, said she was a bit skeptical at first of using the rough sport as a fundraiser but has seen how the event brings the community together.
“It brings different people to the table who want to help their community, and it’s a really fun event," Forsberg said. " It’s actually incredibly family-friendly; people have a really good time here."
During its first year in 2019, the event raised $200,000. This year, they passed that by leaps and bounds, raising more than $300,000.
“It helps provide food, safe and stable housing; helps people who have been victims of domestic violence," Forsberg said. "And Nebraska Workforce does a lot to help people be ready for financially stable jobs.”
Omaha City Councilmember Danny Begley is on the Board of Directors for the Nebraska Center for Workforce Development and Education. He said the turnout for the event shows how supportive the local labor movement is of the work being down at Nebraska Workforce.
"Besides United Way of the Midlands, it's also outreach to younger men and women who want to get into the buildings trades," Begley said. "There's a tremendous gap with the Baby Boomers retiring, and there's a great need for those skillsets to be learned."
Hosting a large fundraiser the day before a major holiday may seem like an off choice, but it was strategic according to Forsberg.
“The trades are really hard-working men and women, and a lot of time they work seven days a week," Forsberg said. "And Thanksgiving is that one holiday where everybody tends to get it off, and it’s also one of the most popular nights for going out.”
With another successful year in the books, they're hoping to make Blue Collar Boxing an annual tradition.
The 22 boxers represented Nebraska’s labor unions during the fight: IBEW Local 22, IBEW Local 1521, Heat & Frost Insulators 39, Ironworkers Local 21, Sprinkler Fitters Local 669, Operating Engineers Local, 571, IAFF Local 385, Steamfitters & Plumbers Local 464 and Plumbers 16.