GREENFIELD — While the lasting COVID-19 pandemic forced the Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center to limit participation in its annual “break-athon” fundraiser, students were able to raise over $3,000 for Warm the Children.
Over the past few decades, the Warm the Children fundraiser has grown to provide new coats and clothes to 900 children from Franklin County and the North Quabbin region each year.
The Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center has been holding its break-athon since 2002, now raising more than $95,000 in total. That makes the center, and owner and instructor David Johnson, one of the largest fundraising supporters for Warm the Children, the annual charity overseen by the Greenfield Recorder that helps to provide warm clothing for families in need.
Johnson said he was pleased with this year’s fundraising efforts totaling $3,056. Most years, the break-athon raises between $3,000 to $4,000 with three times as many participating students.
Ordinarily, more than a dozen students gather together at the dojo, but due to COVID-19 safety precautions, fewer students participated overall, and those who participated did so in single sessions at different times and days. Johnson said he felt it was important to keep the fundraiser active this year as more families need the help due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In a year like this, it’s nothing short of amazing that we were able to pull this off,” he said.
Johnson was joined in person by two of his black belt members last week to give the check to organizer Pat Maleno, business manager for the Greenfield Recorder, Athol Daily News and Daily Hampshire Gazette. Some students attended the presentation via the large screen on the dojo wall, which Johnson said they use for Zoom classes.
“I’m very proud of them,” Johnson said of his students. “Here we are, in one of the craziest times ever, and still raising money to help local kids.”
Over the past couple of years, Johnson has also placed donation jars at local retail and other business locations. Greenfield Tae Kwon Do students annually reach out to friends, family and neighbors asking for contributing donations to the break-athon.
The break-athon invites students of all ages and abilities to participate, with Johnson guiding them through proper forms before breaking boards. This year’s youngest participant was just 5½ years old. Johnson said the fundraiser helps reinforce the idea of giving back to the community through actions.
“They see these initial, tangible results,” Johnson said. “They’re breaking boards and turning them into clothing in an obtuse kind of way.”
While Johnson acknowledged food insecurity as another area of concern, especially amid the pandemic, he said he has always been drawn to the Warm the Children fundraiser. He referenced the lasting snow and cold this February, and said that helping provide access to warm clothing is “an intricate part of taking care of kids in Western Massachusetts.”
The Greenfield Tae Kwon Do Center will continue with virtual classes until it is safe to gather with the full body of students, Johnson said. To learn more about the center, visit grnfldtkd.com or facebook.com/GreenfieldTKD.
Although this year’s window for referrals or applicants to benefit from Warm the Children (which is done through social service agencies) has closed, anyone interested in sending tax-deductible donations may address them to the Greenfield Recorder: Warm the Children, at P.O. Box 1367, 14 Hope St., Greenfield, MA 01302. Donations will be put toward next winter’s Warm the Children effort.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4579.