ROCKINGHAM — The young ninjas of American Tae Kwon Do got up early Saturday to kick for a cause.
The school’s annual fundraiser for Richmond County Animal Advocates, Kick-A-Thon, asks each student to seek donations or sponsors who would donate a certain amount of money for each kick they complete in five minutes. The money goes toward Animal Advocates’ recent effort to refocus on spaying and neutering pets in Richmond County, to help manage the population and take pressure off the animal shelter.
Allison Story, director of Animal Advocates, described the school’s patriarch, James “Master J” Jeter, as an animal lover and said he had been one of the shelter’s biggest boosters during the past seven to eight years.
“He’s got a big heart, and this fundraiser has kept us going,” Story said, recalling a time in 2011 when the Kick-A-Thon was so popular that it raised enough money to pay off Animal Advocates’ entire veterinary bill. “Spaying and neutering makes a difference. Shelters are great, but you’re still going to have unwanted litters.”
Many people love kittens and puppies, Jeter said, but when they find they can’t handle the responsibility, the animals end up going out onto the street and into the shelter, where they may end up being euthanized.
More than a dozen students competed to notch the most kicks on a dummy in the mid-day heat in front of Walmart. Kids as young as 7 put on a show for their classmates and parents, who cheered them on, even as they clearly began rethinking their choices after the first minute or so of constant kicking. Tae kwan do students normally train for accuracy of kicks over volume.
As one competitor fade early on, another shouted, “C’mon, you can buy yourself a new PlayStation!”
“It’s a long five minutes,” Jeter said.
Connor Ellis, 13, completed 380 kicks in the five minutes, the most of any of the competitors. Ellis said his goal before he began was 384, but his high score was 420. Exhausted afterward, Ellis said most of the pain was in his calves.
On Thursday, the school will present Story with a check for how much money it raised. The students will receive their honors for getting the most kicks, sponsors and money raised at their last class before Christmas.
“They impress me every year,” Jeter said of his students. “I couldn’t be more proud when they come out and do something like this for the community.”