The Recorder – Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center breaking boards to keep kids warm

The Recorder - Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center breaking boards to keep kids warm

GREENFIELD — Tae Kwon Do students will be breaking boards to keep the children warm on Saturday.

The annual “break-athon” fundraiser is in its 17th year, and will start at 9 a.m. at the Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center, 102 Federal St. The event is open to the public.

Tae Kwon Do students will use their training to raise money for Warm the Children, which gathers donations to purchase winter clothing for children.

Students will solicit donations and pledges of 10 cents to a $1 for each board they break. A single, flat-rate donation is also accepted. Donations for Warm the Children will also be accepted at the door.

“It’s all about taking care of the community,” said David Johnson, head instructor at the Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center.

As the fundraising event approaches, Johnson has been preparing by teaching students the proper technique for breaking boards, and by sawing donated lumber into 1-inch thick boards. The scrap pieces of wood will be sold as bundles of kindling, and that money will also be donated to Warm the Children.

Breaking boards is normally reserved for higher-ranking students, but Johnson said the center likes to include everyone for the fundraiser.

“We have 1,500 boards,” Johnson said. “We’re gonna break them all.”

During a class Monday night, Johnson instructed students to guide their fists before “popping” and striking their target. He and Ken Kurtyka, a fourth-degree black belt and instructor, used an X-ray sheet as a target to strike for practice. Johnson noted that the 1-inch thickness of the boards represents the same dimension as a rib bone.

“The key to breaking is focus,” Johnson told his pupils.

Instructor Charlotte Gifford said the interest in the fundraiser and community support is a representation of the respect established within the Tae Kwon Do lessons. The art of Tae Kwon Do is built on creating that sense of respect. This feeds back into service in the community, Gifford said.

Kurtyka said the break-athon for Warm the Children helps emphasize these virtues every year. Students gain a broader view of their community and learn about issues they may not be aware of, like other children in need.

Young students Zack Constantine and Aishah Diallo said they are proud to contribute to the fundraiser, providing children with clothes for the winter.

“It’s fun because I know where all the money is going to,” Zack said. “I like that the money is going to Warm the Children because they really need stuff for the winter.”

“When it goes to Warm the Children, I know I’m helping the community,” Aishah added. “I know that even little sacrifices can make a big difference to those people in the world you are helping.”

For the fundraiser, students gather in different stations across the Tae Kwon Do Center floor, with each group being led by a black belt student or instructor. The students each use their training to strike and break as many boards as possible within a one-to-three-hour period. Each broken board is collected in a pile, showcasing their progress.

The center has raised more than $84,500 throughout the first 16 break-athons.

This year, Johnson was able to keep a Warm the Children collection jar in Bicycle World, located in front of the Tae Kwon Do Center, which has helped boost this year’s donations. The Tae Kwon Do Center has also applied to a program through JetBlue that could award thousands of dollars to Warm the Children, if selected.

Lumber for the break-athon is donated by Lamore Lumber of Deerfield, J & J Lumber of South Deerfield and Cowls Building Supply of North Amherst.

For more information on the Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center and the break-athon, visit or stop by the studio at 102 Federal St.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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