‘Break-a-thon’ earns thousands for Olympia, North Thurston schools

Staff writerMay 31, 2014 

An afternoon of hammer fists and roundhouse kicks helped generate thousands of dollars for needy students in Olympia and Lacey.

The U.S. Martial Arts Center and the Washington State Taekwondo Foundation held their second “board break-a-thon” Saturday at Chinook Middle School in Lacey. The event netted $20,000 for the Olympia and North Thurston school districts.

U.S. Martial Arts Center was founded by Grand Master Young-Lee, who came up with the break-a-thon as a way to celebrate the center’s 30th anniversary last year. The inaugural event raised $24,000, which was also split between the two districts.

About one-third of the center’s 650 students from three area locations participated Saturday to bust more than 2,000 wooden boards. Lee’s son Jason Lee, a master instructor at the west Olympia branch, said the center simply wanted to help the schools where their students attend. Martial arts instructors take pride in teaching life skills and building confidence in youths, Lee said.

“We’re not just about punches and kicks,” he said. “It’s about developing strong character.”

Bob Hahn, board member of the Olympia School District Education Foundation, said the break-a-thon’s proceeds will benefit the Principals Emergency Checkbook Fund. That program allows schools to instantly address financial emergencies for low-income students. For example, some students may need groceries, clothes, coats, shoes or a dental appointment. With 510 homeless students in the Olympia district, Hahn said, the fund is in constant demand.

“We want kids to be able to focus on learning,” said Hahn, praising the break-a-thon donation as the fund’s largest of the year.

The other beneficiary, the North Thurston Education Foundation, performs a similar mission. Executive director Sue Shannon said the program also provides scholarships and learning improvement grants.

“Sometimes we even pay rent and utilities for families,” Shannon said. “It meets needs that can’t be met other ways.”

The break-a-thon was a true family affair. David Stewart planned to celebrate his 50th birthday by breaking 50 boards Saturday. The Olympia resident was one of the bigger fundraisers, bringing in about $1,000 in pledges. His three children — Kenny, 11, Lyndsey, 15, and Amy, 18 — will test for their black belts this month.

Stewart, who holds an advanced purple belt, said tae kwon do helps his family bond and stay fit.

“I’ve lost 25 pounds,” he said. “I’m in better shape now than when I was 40.”

Olympia resident CJ Poundstone said tae kwon do has helped his children Curran, 5, and Nohwa, 7, do better at school.

“There’s a significant difference just in their ability to focus,” said Poundstone, who also takes martial arts classes with his kids and wife, Lisa. “It’s really critical that we make family time.”

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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