The story below is based off the transcript of the video above, produced by Jenna Diaco, edited by Roland Smith, and voiced by Glenn.
"With my parents, like I tell everybody, they always loved us, but they couldn’t take care of themselves as much as they could take care of four kids, so we were sleeping in vans. We were sleeping in campers, wasn’t the greatest place to sleep. And as soon as I walked in, it was just a lot of friendship. A lot of friendship came to me," said Josh.
"We knew their family life. We knew about their parents and everything. The parents weren’t abusive. They were just so down and out, they just did not have financial means to give them adequate housing and adequate, you know, food and water and heat and stuff like that," said Jack Mook.
Detective Jack Mook is not somebody you want to mess with. He has been hardened by the constant grind of Pittsburgh streets.
"In a 22-year career, I probably did 17 years in narcotics, and in narcotics, I’ve worked at undercover. I’ve worked at where I just suppressed the corners of street dealers and raided homes and everything else," Jack explained.
In his line of work, you need an outlet. Boxing is his. Jack’s been volunteering at the Steel City Boxing Gym for more than a decade, but just a few years ago, two young brothers stumbled in and changed his life forever.
"You could tell while there were coming it was an escape, and you could tell when they sparred, when they fought, you could really feel and see the emotions," one of the boy's trainers said.
In a place known for sparring, Josh and Jesse found peace. Coach worked with them for a while, until suddenly they just stopped hanging around.
"We became worried about it. We talked about it. We went on the lookout for them, you know, see if you see them in the neighborhood, if they pop up, ask them what’s going on," Jack said.
The boys’ parents had lost custody of them. They were sent to live with relatives where their living conditions quickly deteriorated from poverty to sheer neglect and abuse.
"I finally found Joshua December of 2012, right before Christmas. He didn’t look good—blotches of hair missing, you know, some type of rash on the back of his head, psoriasis, flea bites, you know, sunken-in cheeks. And Joshua and I went out the road, and I got him something to eat," Jack said.
"He was very quiet and wouldn’t speak much. I knew something was wrong, so I pulled over, and instead of being a coach I was being a cop on this one. I was like, you know, what’s going on here, Josh? You know, you’ve got to tell me what’s up. If you need help, you’ve got to ask those that are closest to you."
"He breaks down crying. He goes there’s dog feces in the carpet. They make us clean it up with our toothbrushes. They’re not sleeping in a bed. They either sleep on the floor or on a sectional couch together."
Joash said, "When I thought to myself at night it was always what can I do for Jesse to cheer him up the next day? The one time he wasn’t doing too good in school, but nobody actually helped him but me, and one time they brought him home. They took him upstairs, and they beat him up. I didn’t watch, but I heard the pain. I heard the crying, and after that it just kind of broke me down. And after that, I made sure nothing would ever happen like that to him again."
His brother Jesse explained, "Well, there was always trouble. There was this big fight on the street, and they picked up like a sign or something and started swinging…shootings. I don’t want to say, but there’s pills all over the street, literally thousands of them."
"I said Joshua, just hang in there. Take care of your brother," Jack said. "Let me see what I can do. And then I came home, and when I came home I just felt selfish and guilty that I have a whole house here, and these kids are going through that. So right there I made a decision to get on the ball and go get them."
The process would take time, but Jack Mook began taking the necessary steps to get Josh and Jesse under his care. Then, just a couple of weeks later, he got a little help from divine intervention when the relative the boys had been living with had a serious run-in with the law. By emergency order, the boys were sent to live with him.
"I thought I was just out to eat or something, and then when I seen the Benz on the porch and I seen him carrying him out, I was like this is the real deal," Josh said. "I still wasn’t super happy, but then once I got in the car, his words were you’re coming home with me, and that’s when the smile came, and all the stress, all the anger, all of the depression, all of the everything, it left me that day, all of it."
"Now, once they’re here I’m just getting things settled in. I’m trying to explain rules to them, what’s going to happen. Then I kind of realized okay, you’re going to be a foster parent, you know? And I also realized then I’m going to keep them forever," Jack said.
Just over two months ago, Coach got one step closer to doing just that.
"Honestly, I think when the judge signed the adoption papers, I understood why the Grinch got the big heart at the end of the movie," Jack said. "That’s what I felt like. And to see the smiles and the laughter and the happiness and their faces are filled, you know, they’re fed, they’re healthy boys. I have no doubt if I did not take these boys on they would have ended up in juvenile detention centers or some halfway house for orphans or something."
Jesse said, "If I wouldn’t have got out of there, I would have grown up to be one of those guys on the street, no job, no diploma or anything, asking for change and stuff."
"They weren’t raising us right," Josh explained. "Before, there were drugs in the house. They were bad influences. They were just no good people. It’s just I think we would have been dead. That’s what I think, and I’m very appreciative that I ain’t."
"I’m Coach, and I’ll always be Coach," Jack told TheBlaze. "And they look at Coach as, you know, the provider, the guardian, the protector, yet the best friend."
Thanks to a little dedication and a whole lot of love, this team has become a family.
"This is, you know, the greatest thing that will ever happen in the history of this boxing gym," one of the trainers said. "Nothing is going to top what this man has done through this gym and for these boys."
"He gave me the focus. He got me out of where I was. He saved me. Like everybody says, everything happens for a reason, and God works in mysterious ways. I think it’s God’s plan, but God gave us obstacles to have to overcome still to be a family right now," Jack said.
"All the stuff we’ve been through, it was all God’s plan, even though it was bad, but still, there were huge just obstacles to see if we could overcome, and we did it, and we proved ourselves, and I think now He rewarded us with a family."