Where it all began...
Brawl for a Cause is an annual fundraising event in Atlanta that raises awareness and funds for causes most near to its community’s heart, chosen by everyday people who train for months for the opportunity to literally fight for what they believe in. While training, the participants engage in online fundraising for the charities of their choosing, and on the actual day of the event, they face-off in a boxing ring with another Brawler matched by by age, size, and amount fundraised to determine whose charity will receive the greater portion of their combined fundraising totals.
To top it all off, the event also features celebrity bouts, casino games, live entertainment, and even an auction, all taking place in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Falcons and this year’s Super Bowl.
But in order to be successful, Brawl for a Cause needs a group of modern-day heroes to step forward and literally fight for what they believe in: Pamela Mutumwa is one of those heroes.
Pam’s journey to becoming a Brawler began with her natural athleticism. Born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe before moving to Michigan for college at the age of 17, Pam had grown up running and playing tennis, squash, and field hockey, all of which she still plays today while balancing a career in project management working for a global investment management firm. But before she learned about Brawl for a Cause, she’d never tried boxing.
“[Brawl] came about through a friend I met at bible study. She was really passionate about boxing and what it did for her in her life as an outlet. We bonded over our athleticism, and she invited me to her boxing gym. The fight she was actually preparing for was Brawl for a Cause. She won that fight.”
But it wasn’t until a year and a half later when Pam met another member of the boxing gym who was also training for Brawl that she was inspired to get involved.
“For me, it was a combination of someone who liked the challenge and when I found out it was all about charity, I thought ‘this is a case where I have an opportunity to do something I really enjoy.’ People who are really passionate about causes and who are willing to step into that ring for a moment get to be part of a big event that’s bigger than themselves.”
But before Pam started training, she had to identify which charity she wanted to support. She decided on Partnership Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the crime of intimate partner violence and empowering its survivors through support and educational programs.
Pam says one of their programs that she admires the most is their outreach for teen awareness and education. Teen girls are invited to help organize dating awareness programs and conferences at which they receive guidance and engage in group discussions about what qualifies as a healthy relationship, what’s abusive, how you communicate effectively with someone when you might be upset or how to effectively argue in a relationship. These early outreach efforts set the tone at a young age to help women avoid getting trapped in abusive relationships, but also preparing them to know what to do in a situation where they don’t feel safe.
A survivor of domestic violence herself, Pam believes that the resources and discussion PADV provides can seriously aid young women in their future lives: “If I had known certain things when I was younger or had been exposed to that dialogue, it would have been extremely helpful.”
PADV also provides legal services, resources for children, and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
With her cause secured, Pam began eight and a half weeks of intensive training with a former Golden Glove champion. Although she knew to expect an intense workout, the mental fortitude required for boxing came as more of a surprise.
“There’s a certain discipline that comes with the sport. People say it’s a violent personality, but it’s not. You have to be nonreactive in a boxing ring. Yeah, you get hit, but you can’t react; you have to be composed enough to be calculated.”
The most challenging part for Pam wasn’t finding this discipline, however. Her training in boxing didn’t end up being an easy, stress-relieving past time. Rather, her work to become a Brawler became its own journey in personal development.
“What was challenging for me is that I wasn’t aggressive, I’m not an aggressive person at all. If I looked normal before a spar, [my coach] would tell me to step out of the ring and come back in with a different attitude. He could tell I wasn’t ready; I had to acquire this ‘I’m going to war’ mindset. But it was challenging. I had an emotional training session once, I was so frustrated because I wasn’t aggressive. I had a conversation with the girl who introduced me to boxing. She’s also not aggressive, but she told me her thing was ‘if someone hits me, I’m not going to let them keep hitting me.’ She puts herself in a mental state where she is fighting for her life. It took talking to a female boxer to give me that perspective on being a boxer.”
Pam refused to quit. Keeping her friend’s perspective in mind, Pam finished her training and, after successfully raising over $7,500 for PADV, she won her fight at Brawl for a Cause last February against an opponent much heavier and stronger than her.
How we got to help
Like all the Brawlers, Pam made her own fundraising page for her fight for PADV on Givebutter.
“I’m such a perfectionist and detail-oriented, and the thing I realized about Givebutter is that it really lets you personalize your page. GoFundMe felt like a template, but with Givebutter, I could add videos and embed pictures, so it really felt like I could customize and create more of a blog experience. Sharing that link was actually nice; you’re proud of what you created and proudly share it with other people.”
Pam’s campaign was one of 30 Brawler campaigns which collectively raised over $200,000 at last year’s Brawl for a Cause.
Pam’s contribution to her community isn’t ending here. Her experience at Brawl for a Cause inspired her to move forward with a long-time dream of creating her own blog. While the idea of a lifestyle blog to encourage young women and to be a practical resource had been ruminating for years, Pam hadn’t felt the internal pull that it was the right next step until after she’d finished her Brawl.
“The experience I’ve had through Brawl for a Cause and the support I got raising $7500 made me realize I could not have done all of that without the voice of the people who believe in me and want me to do well. Now I feel this internal push to create a website, interview experts in different areas--health and fitness, economic empowerment, life skills--to give people a platform where the information is there and digestible and consumable.”
And so Practical Pam was born, a platform dedicated to empowering young adults--especially women--through two main pillars, health and adulting.
What’s Pam’s advice for anyone looking to make a difference?
“One thing about the current times we live in is that it’s all about meeting a need somewhere; you can be unknown today and then become an influential person in what appears to be overnight. People think these stories happen overnight, but there’s always a journey. Whatever is inspiring you, you just have to believe in yourself that there are people who can relate or could benefit. We all feel the same spectrum of emotions, there’s hurt, pain, grief, loss, disappointment, shame... but the emotions resonate, and you have to be willing to be vulnerable, to be strong enough to carry the weight of what creating change comes with. Anything worthwhile takes time. Coming up with a business idea and refining it, studying for professional board certifications, or achieving a weight loss goal. All these things take time. Your story is worthwhile, and maybe it will be the thing someone needs to hear or a brilliant and refined idea that can transform lives forever.”