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Bernie Brewer at The Good Fight

Milwaukee Brewers Mascot, Bernie Brewer, mitt boxes with Nate Coleman, president of The Good Fight Community Center, Thursday during a visit to the organization that helps at-risk youth.

Nate Coleman raised his mitts outside the boxing ring of the Good Fight Community Center, fielding hits from the gloves of a 7-foot man with giant blue shoes and a big blonde mustache.

His opponent wasn’t just anyone — the oversized character was none other than Bernie Brewer, beloved mascot of the Milwaukee Brewers.

In town for the 22nd annual La Crosse Area Day at Miller Park First Pitch event, held Thursday evening at the Moose Lodge, Bernie stopped in to surprise members of the Good Fight, which offers boxing, educational and job preparation programming, recreation and field trips for at-risk or disadvantaged tweens and teens.

While it was Bernie’s first visit to the Jay Street facility, Good Fight founder Coleman says the organization has taken about five kids to Brewers games in the past two years with assistance from La Crosse Area Day at Miller Park, which uses community donations or sponsorships to provide tickets, transportation and game-day snacks for area underprivileged youth.

“We like to take kids that maybe aren’t as fortunate as others,” said Dale Anderson, a La Crosse Area Day organizer. “They might not get to go to a game again in their lives.”

Isaiah Thomas, executive director of the Good Fight, says the organization hopes to send 10 kids to the June 28 Brewers game, and Jayden Wavra, 13, was itching to go, asking Bernie, “Can I have tickets?”

Jayden and friend DJ Greening, 14, were surprised to see the towering, friendly faced Bernie standing in the entryway of their after-school haunt, with Jayden offering a fistbump and noting, “I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I never expected to see a baseball mascot come here.”

While Hank the Ballpark Pup didn’t make the trip (contrary to a recent conspiracy theory, the scruffy white pooch is alive and thriving), Coleman was pleased as punch to have the one and only Bernie in his midst.

“That is fantastic!” Coleman exclaimed as Bernie swapped his baseball glove for boxing gloves and pumped his fists. “That is fantastic!”

Along with accompanying kids to the spring Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates game, the Good Fight has more opportunities on the docket, including a new Carey Guide program where teens referred by court officials, schools or juvenile detention can visit the center for help with behavioral issues, drug problems or anger management.

In addition, Thomas says there will be opportunities for university students to come in for hands-on learning in fields such as sociology and public administration.

For more information on The Good Fight Community Center, visit thegoodfight.club.

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Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers human interest stories, local events and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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