A female boxer who escaped gangs and drugs through sport and inspired her father to form a youth charity has praised the Prince of Wales for an inspirational visit.
William toured Swindon-based charity Best – Be A Better You, founded by Don Bryden, and learnt about his efforts, along with wife Sarah and daughter Jess, to support the social, emotional and mental health issues of the next generation with sporting activities.
But the future king, who boxed during his time in the military, turned down an offer to spar with Ms Bryden, 18, after watching her powerful punching in the ring.
Offered a pair of gloves by the teenager, who is due to fight in an amateur match on Saturday, William quipped: “You’re very quick, I’ll be out of breath.”
Ms Bryden was 14 when her involvement with gangs and drug-taking came to a head and she was removed from Swindon for her own safety by her family after overdosing.
After she told William about her troubled earlier years, he said: “Takes a lot to turn it around, it’s not easy.”
He added: “You’ve shown your strength of mind.”
Ms Bryden said after the visit: “For me, boxing is what changed my life, boxing actually gave me a purpose. I actually wanted to wake up and go to boxing and that’s what some of the kids don’t have – they don’t have a purpose, they don’t have that motivation.”
Now a part-time boxing mentor with the charity, Ms Bryden described the effect of the royal visit: “This is more for the kids to see he’s there to support them. This is good for Best but more importantly the individuals who are suffering, never in their lives will they experience something like this again.”
William spoke to children who spend part of their school week at the charity and the volunteers working alongside permanent staff.
Afterwards, Mr Bryden spoke about the scourge of knife crime in Swindon – but said the recent stabbing death of 15-year-old Elianne Andam in London was not part of his discussions with the prince.
Speaking about the effect of providing football and boxing in a mentoring setting for young people, he said: “Sometimes we have a young kid and they’ll walk in with a hoodie, covered up and they’re gangster or want to be classed as gangster.
“But I tell you what, 25 to 30 minutes into the session and the child comes back out. What we’ve got here is a kid going to an adult and missing out their teenage years. That, I think, is one of the biggest and most important things we were lacking – let these kids be kids.”