Martial arts students from around the area spent a recent hot Saturday on a football field delivering 1,000 kicks in formation for Special Olympics Missouri.
The third annual Kickin’ It With Cops event was held June 10 at the Lee’s Summit North High School football stadium.
Led by instructor Linda Hanson, more than 80 martial arts students, children and adults, did the kicking. At least two Special Olympics athletes joined in on the fun.
Hanson, owner of Tamashii Black Belt Academy in Lee’s Summit, has organized the annual fundraising event for three years. She was joined by police officers and firefighters from Lee’s Summit in support of the cause.
Hanson said she decided she wanted to help raise money three years ago for Special Olympics after meeting several police officers at a polar plunge event.
“I went to that and I met all these cops who individually have their own fundraising event, so I said, ‘Why don’t I help?’” Hanson said. “I started three years ago at the Rotary Youth Camp and last year I decided to just go big. This year, it’s even bigger.”
Two of Hanson’s friends, Mike and Jennifer Day, were also at the polar plunge a few years ago. The Day’s son Spencer, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, attended Hanson’s karate classes when the family lived in Lee’s Summit. The family now lives in Seattle, but was back in Lee’s Summit last weekend. Spencer was one of the Special Olympics athletes kicking alongside his father.
Students from Hanson’s dojo, as well as four others from around the region, participated in the fundraising and kicking. The event raised $10,707 for Special Olympics Missouri, Hanson said on Saturday. Thanks to personal donations and corporate sponsorships, Hanson said they exceeded their original goal of $10,000.
Adam Wright, development manager for Special Olympics Missouri, said the donations help make their year-round programs free for around 15,000 athletes in the state and help pay for jerseys, food and lodging for the athletes. Some of the money donated also goes toward major fundraising events for the organization.
Wright said 64 percent of the state’s Special Olympics athletes live below the poverty line, making it important to keep expenses down.
“Every dollar counts, and $10,000 is a big effort,” Wright said, standing on the football field with dozens of kickers. “I mean, that’s awesome.”
For more information about Special Olympics Missouri, visit www.somo.org.