You know who Chuck Norris is; whether it is through his movies, television, and the internet meme “Chuck Norris Facts.” Many people feel that Mr. Norris’ legacy is something related to his fame as a movie and television star, or his books. Some may even claim that his legacy is i n his political activism.
But Chuck Norris will tell you that his greatest legacy is his charitable foundation, KICKSTART KIDS.
Nearly two decades ago Chuck Norris founded KICKSTART KIDS. He wanted to give children access to the life changing benefits to be found in the martial arts. Starting in four middle schools in Houston, Texas, KICKSTART KIDS has grown to over 40 middle schools in Texas (Chuck Norris has the goal that, eventually, KICKSTART KIDS will be a standard part of every middle school campus in the United States. Once a school district has the KICKSTART KIDS program in one of their schools, it is typical for them to want KICKSTART KIDS in more of the schools in their district, which speaks volumes as to the value of the program. In the face of the worst budget crisis in modern history, the schools that had the KICKSTART KIDS program on their campus made tremendous sacrifices to keep it.
That also says a lot about the value they see in the program.
KICKSTART KIDS is personal to me, I am one of the instructors in the organization and sharing with you what we do is important
We work in middle schools and our class is an alternate PE credit elective. Any parent can tell you middle school is a difficult time. Having spoken to people about this fact, and how critical these years are in the lives of children, they usually nod and say, “Yeah, it was tough when I was a kid too.” I appreciate that but things are very different now. The problems we faced are not at all the same as the problems kids face today. This is still the time when children are exploring their individuality and developing their identity; that part has not changed. But this is also the age where drug and gang related peer pressures are really beginning. Children in middle school are pressured about gangs, drugs and sex, along with a whole host of other bad habits.
KICKSTART KIDS operates mostly in inner-city schools. I am currently assigned to a school in Irving Texas, a small city in the heart of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. My school is located in the middle of the zip code that has both the highest crime rate and the lowest median income in Irving.
Over half of my students each year are unable to pay for their uniform (no child is ever turned away from KICKSTART KIDS for any reason, those unable to pay for the uniform are still given a uniform). From personal experience, I can tell you we fill a void in the life of our students. Sadly, the majority of my students have no Father at home. Many do not even have any male role model at home. Very often I have to serve in that capacity for those students who need a positive male role model.
We take these children in and we teach them karate. To a non-martial artist, this could seem well beyond strange. But to a martial artist, we all understand. We know from our own experiences what the training did for us, and how it changed us to our very core. For many of our students, they can tell the same stories, but it strikes them on a deeper level, as they would never have been able to access training in the martial arts without KICKSTART KIDS. The cost of training simply put it out of reach. We are not competition to the commercial martial arts schools. Nearly all of our students would be unable to enroll in any martial arts course if KICKSTART KIDS did not exist.
I have been with KICKSTART KIDS for ten years. Should I take a moment and tell about the student from a family so financially challenged that I had to sponsor her in karate tournaments (she always repaid me by taking 1st place), and is now a Med student? Or should I talk about the many students who have taken my class, and found the confidence to enter into classes or sports that they never had the confidence to enter into before? Or what about the student who attempted suicide four times while in the 7th grade, and entered into KICKSTART KIDS as an 8th grader, where he not only turned around and became self-confident, but found success and became a very productive student? Maybe you should hear about the student who entered KICKSTART KIDS so shy that she could not even bring herself to answer up during attendance, but left so confident that she gave a speech at her High School graduation? The successes are too numerous, and yet every success story has value, because they are about people and there is no greater value than our kids and their futures.
In ten years, I have had more than a thousand students train with me. What I want you to finish this article understanding is this; through KICKSTART KIDS, I have the opportunity to save and change children’s lives. All of the Instructors in the organization genuinely feel this responsibility and obligation, and we do everything within our power to reach kids who need to be reached. Anyone who has ever trained in the martial arts knows that it changes you in a very profound way, and KICKSTART KIDS has been working since 1992 to bring these changes to the people who need it most, and can afford it least. As an Instructor for KICKSTART KIDS, I get to live my goal of being a full time martial arts instructor, with no need for a second job, and I get to lie down at night, every night, and know that I did everything in my power to reach out to kids. I get a chance sometimes to be the one person who didn’t drop the line on a student in the same spot where everyone else did. Sometimes I have to be a drill sergeant, other times, I have to be a Father figure, and sometimes I get to be a friend who knows how to listen. Most of all, I get to be there for someone who needs me. That is what makes my personal challenges worthwhile.
I hope to see KICKSTART KIDS spread beyond Texas and throughout the U.S. as Chuck Norris envisions. There are untold numbers of children in the United States who could benefit profoundly from KICKSTART KIDS, if only we were available to them. The more the word spreads, the better the chances are that we can get to these kids before it is too late. Every child is worth the effort it takes to reach them and give them the tools to make the best choices.
About the Author Wallace Smedly: http://wallacesmedley.com/about/
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