Better Families Through Tae Kwon Do 26-year commitment to youth and family empowerment has been a transformative lifeline for my ten-year-old son. Just last year, Isreal uttered the most heart-wrenching declaration, “When I can walk again, I want to do Karate!” It was agonizing that his wish would go unfulfilled for lack of resources. As a single parent, I often struggle to afford basic necessities.
Four years earlier, fleeing a toxic relationship with all the possessions I could fit in a ‘97 Buick Lesabre, we relocated to Miami from Atlanta. We were homeless but hopeful my new job at the University of Miami would lead to a better life. Shortly thereafter, Isreal was diagnosed with severe femoral anteversion, an inward twisting of his thigh bones.
He desperately needed surgery in order to walk properly. Consequently, three weeks prior to his ninth birthday, Isreal endured the cutting and repositioning of his femurs. Once rotated, orthopedic screws were inserted to reattach the bone. Casts were applied from the upper thighs to his ankles. A bar was placed between his knees to keep the hips and legs immobilized, making a wheelchair necessary for mobility.
That fall, when his peers began learning their fourth-grade lessons, Isreal was relearning how to walk. Fast-forward six months, a very assertive pre-teen initiates a conversation during a physical therapy appointment. She mentioned practicing Tae Kwon Do, but had injured her knee playing soccer. “Oh, where do you go?” I asked instantly intrigued, believing the encounter was a sign. “Better Families,” she says proudly. “It’s next to the Big Cheese,” the girl added. I knew the establishment well. The golden stucco building bearing a simple, yet bold, “Karate” sign was a stone’s throw from our apartment complex.
Indeed fate had smiled upon us. Master Mary Beth Klock-Perez, owner and founder of the Martial Arts school, listened compassionately to the many challenges that led us to petition her. After negotiating a win-win arrangement, Isreal was sized up for a crisp white dobok, Tae Kwon Do’s traditional uniform. “Now go change,” Master KlockPerez instructed. His transformation was nearly complete. She donned his white belt, ceremoniously, while teaching him the proper way to tie it. My heart, saturated with pride, could barely contain the joy I felt.
For many extracurricular sports are just a normal childhood requirement, but for Isreal it’s a rite of passage. A dream sought after and actualized. Yet, true mastership will demand everything of him—dedication, self-discipline, hard work and focus. Truly he has journeyed long and hard to get here. Preparing for his orange belt graduation, I watch intensely as he thrusts choreographed kicks and punches into the atmosphere. With the support of the Better Families community nothing will obstruct his path to greatness.
For more information about Better Families Through Tae Kwon Do, visit www.betterfamilies.com.