In addition to blogging and writing books, I’m a freelance writer. (Actually, I used to be a managing editor for an awesome regional magazine, but that’s a whole other story.) The following article originally appeared in a neighborhood publication owned by The Boerne Star in November 2013.
Please note if you’re a San Antonio-area resident interested in making a contribution to the karate school’s toy drive, they are most in need of items for teenagers (ages 12-18).
The annual World Karate USA toy drive is almost as old as the school.
“We opened the school in January 2001. We held our first toy drive the following December,” said owner David Brown. “The main reason that we started the toy drive is because so many kids out here come from privilege. I wanted them to see there’s another life outside communities like Fair Oaks and Leon Springs.”
Brown heads up a 6-week toy collection to deliver quality, brand-name, new toys to children living in state-run and non-profit residential facilities.
“The kids that receive the toys often have very little parental or family contact. These gifts are small in comparison with their true needs, but we do what we can to show them that people do care about them.”
It’s not unusual for the toy drive to yield 1,500 to 3,000 toys each year. Donated items range from books and small items to bikes, Spurs jerseys and more. “One year we had 11 brand-new bikes to give away. That was incredible to see.”
Brown and other instructors promote the drive to karate students in their weekly classes. The students are encouraged to use their own money to buy new items to donate.
“We tell the kids that the experience of giving will mean more to them if they use their own money. It’s just not the same if Mom or Dad goes out and spends their money. We want our kids to understand that a little bit of sacrifice adds meaning to the act of donation.”
Toys are collected from early November to December 20. [Correction: December 19] World Karate students and their families are invited to help deliver the items via caravan.
“When we select [a beneficiary organization], we insist that we are permitted to drive to the facility to drop it all off. Most times our students won’t see the kids who benefit from the gifts, but our kids do get a sense of what the other kids’ lives are like from the drive over and seeing the facility. It’s all a far cry from the nice homes and neighborhoods here in Leon Springs. I think that’s a pretty good lesson.”
Over time the school has donated to a range of organizations, including Haven for Help, SAMM Ministries, Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives Meadowlands, and a local women’s and children shelter.
“David called us a few years ago, looking to bring presents at Christmas,” said Reverend Jim DeHoog of Mission Road Developmental Center, a non-profit residential facility that serves 45 children diagnosed with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Ninety percent of the kids arrive at the facility through Child Protective Services (CPS).
“Every year the World Karate family comes here delivers things to our kids. What’s special about that is our kids get to see their kids bring the gifts into the chapel. Seeing the donors and thanking them personally is a wonderful thing for our kids to experience. Everyone present gets the spirit and meaning of Christmas.”
DeHoog notes that some of the gifts delivered by World Karate in December are kept for distribution at other times during the year.
“We’re able to use leftover gifts for birthdays or when new kids come to us from CPS. The children from CPS may not have personal toys when they arrive. Giving them a new toy, giving them something that belongs to them and them alone is a wonderful thing to do. We greatly appreciate the families that make this possible.”
Brown sees the toy drive in keeping with his school’s objectives.
“We say that we believe that our mission as martial artists is to make the world a better place for everyone. If a kid comes here, participates in the toy drive, and learns that giving is better than getting, then we’re making a difference. A huge part of martial arts is sacrifice and hard work and learning how we do those things for others rather than just for ourselves. The toy drive makes that message relatable to our students.”
If you’re looking to hire a freelance writer (for print or online media, in Central Texas or beyond), please feel free to contact me.