Martial arts students gain world view

Fundraiser earns more than $8,000 to send overseas

Living conditions for some orphans in Mexico and India have improved thanks to a partnership between a Lawrence martial arts school and a Kansas City, Mo., volunteer organization.

Students – many of them youngsters – with ATA Blackbelt and Leadership Academy, 1540 Wakarusa Drive, have spent the past several months staging events that raised more than $8,000 for Help Art Liberate Orphans.

“This particular school went way beyond what normal schools do,” said Rebecca Neuenswander, president of HALO.

Working with HALO fits right in with one of the academy’s philosophies, chief instructor Cody Pepper said.

“This is a way to let students know that they can make an impact on the world in a big way,” he said.

Center foreground: Marlee Coleman, 5, in blue, and Otulro Hussey, 6, wearing red, take protective stances and yell Safe during a self-defense, safety and awareness workshop Monday at the Lawrence Public Library. Instruction from the ATA Blackbelt and Leadership Academy came with all three workshops. The academy recently participated in a fundraiser to aid orphans in Mexico and India.

During its two years of existence, HALO has funneled money to orphanages primarily in Mexico and India, Neuenswander said. An assessment of the needs of those orphanages is conducted so the money can be directed at certain projects, she said.

The money provides the orphans with basic items, such as food, shelter, clothing and education. But it also provides for some special projects.

Many of the orphans have been abused and need special help. Art therapy is used to help the children build self-esteem. Some of the art pieces are then brought back to the U.S. and sold through auctions. The money is returned to the orphanages. An auction is planned in June in Kansas City.

Erica Kutait, Lawrence, center, works with children in one of the workshops.

Each year ATA picks an organization it wants to help, Pepper said.

“One of our goals is to develop the philanthropic leaders of tomorrow,” Pepper said.

Students at ATA range in age from 4 to senior citizens, he said. On Monday, Pepper and another instructor gave daylong martial arts demonstrations for youngsters as part of a spring break program at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.