New scholarship fund supports young survivors of domestic violence with ‘confidence training’ through martial arts – The Lawrence Times


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On a family vacation in the Philippines at the age of 3, Laila Kholtaev wanted to help the homeless children she saw on the streets. She asked her mother, Marilu Balista-Kholtaev, to buy them food.

After they returned to the United States, Laila started the annual tradition of handing out gift bags at her mother’s work each December.

Marilu Balista-Kholtaev/Contributing photo Martial artist Laila Kholtaev, 8 years old

“She is very keen on donating money or raising money for the kids,” the mother said of the 8-year-old. “I’m very proud of her and I didn’t teach her that. She did it all alone. »

Laila’s latest charity work saw her and her mother raise money for a children’s martial arts scholarship at Laila’s dojo, Premier Martial Arts in Lawrence (PMA). So far they have raised around $500 for the cause.

Chansi Long – a domestic violence survivor who witnessed the benefits of martial arts in her own children – helped launch the Kids Karate Fund in partnership with The Willow Domestic Violence Center and PMA. She hopes the scholarships will change lives by enabling young people to realize the “power” of martial arts.

Long said her life changed when she started her martial arts journey a year ago. She only wished she had discovered the practice sooner. Long’s story includes trauma from domestic violence in her childhood and adult life.


“I could have benefited from better emotional regulation, better self-confidence, all those things that martial arts provide. And if I had had them earlier, I mean, it could have been a whole different set of choices.

As an adult, Long sought support services at The Willow, where she took safe refuge for two months. Despite having a “really valuable” experience at the shelter, Long said she left with low self-esteem.

“I was not yet very independent. And then I signed up my kids for martial arts, and they’ve been doing it for a few years. I saw how much it improved their confidence, but also it reduced their anxiety. After a few months they had really shown a lot of benefits which I finally felt when I signed up.

Long says child survivors of domestic violence suffer in the short and long term. She sees the scholarship as a way to empower children who have experienced trauma.

“Their grades are often lower. They experience more anxiety and depression. And they are more likely to enter abusive relationships later in life. In contrast, studies show that martial arts students perform better academically, experience less anxiety and depression, and gain self-confidence, making them less likely to stay in a relationship when they become violent.

Willow’s general manager, Megan Stuke, said healing takes time and intention.

“Survivors and their children often don’t have the resources or the opportunity to participate in activities that will help them on their healing journey. That’s why this resource will be essential for people who need a way to overcome the trauma they’ve been through,” Stuke said in a press release.

PMA students – including Long’s daughters Ophelia and Millie Beckley – canvassed neighborhoods and called friends and relatives for donations. So far, they’ve raised enough money to fund six months’ tuition and equipment — about $2,000 — for two children who were displaced from their homes by domestic violence.

Chansi Long/Photo Contributed Martial artists collect a Kick-a-Thon donation while canvassing a neighborhood of Lawrence. Ophelia Beckley is seated in front. Back row from left are Millie Beckley, Ania Metz Ramos and donor Judy Pierson.

Mark and Sara Taylor, co-owners of PMA Lawrence, are used to coordinating community service efforts. They encourage students to earn badges for community service and have also sponsored annual giving drives for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and local food banks.

Mark said he hoped dojo members would continue to fundraise several times a year for youngsters to participate in what he called “confidence training” and sponsor school fees and equipment. at least one or two students each year.

Fundraising is only part of the fun. Youth will celebrate their efforts with a Kick-a-Thon, where they will “earn” the donations they have raised by kicking non-stop for five, 10 or 15 minutes, depending on their age.


“The Premier’s Kick-a-Thon helps our children understand the value of community service and what it means to give to others when they need help,” Sara said in the press release. “We believe this event will help our community see that there are survivors and there are ways to support them through their healing process.”

The PMA’s inaugural Kick-a-Thon begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 7 at Premier Martial Arts, 3201 Clinton Parkway Court (near the intersection of Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive). Those wishing to donate to the Kids Karate Fund can donate to @kidskaratefund via Venmo or PayPal. Email [email protected] for more information.

And students who raise $100 qualify to throw a pie in the face of longtime PMA instructor Steven Howe. Members of the cosplay and DC and Marvel charity group Just-Us League will appear at the Kick-a-Thon. The Taylors encourage members of the public who would like to attend to come out and cheer on the attendees.

Long said continuous kicking isn’t easy and can lead to very sore muscles.

“It requires a certain perseverance that I find admirable. And these children are between 5 and 18 years old. A lot of little kids are so into it. It’s just something to see, they keep working beyond their limits or their edge, that determination to achieve that goal.

Chansi Long/Photo Contributed Martial artists gather at Premier Martial Arts after collecting donations for their upcoming Kick-a-Thon event. From left to right, Ania Metz Ramos, Ophelia Beckley and Millie Beckley.

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Tricia Masenthin (her), Equity Reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about his work for The Times here. Check out his staff biography here.

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