Danvers martial arts studio shows its commitment to charity

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Posted Jul. 24, 2015 at 10:30 AM
By Melissa Kintish
danvers@wickedlocal.com
DANVERS

  Sifu Rita Rose Pasquale received a call from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee back in 2001 asking if she wanted to take part in Martial Arts for St. Jude, an effort to raise funds and awareness for the hospital.

Sifu Rita along with her husband Sifu Anthony,  run United Martial Arts Center at 20 Locust St. in Danvers and decided it was a perfect way to help their students grow leadership skills and a mindset for giving back.

With more than 50 students as well as staff  taking part in volunteering efforts, Sifu Rita has made great strides since that 2001 conversation with the hospital. Sifu Rita and her students organizing numerous events throughout the year and find creative ways to bring in donations.

During the recent Endicott Park Day, one of the Danvers Family Festival events, the students and the center’s staff  collected enough to push them over $10,000 mark for the year.

“They knocked it out of the park,” she said that they collected more than $580 during the Endicott Park Day.

A new and popular attraction was a photo booth where children could pose in front of superheroes while, for a donation, their parents took photos.

 “It’s a lot of fun and keeps us excited,” said Sifu Rita.

Sifu Rita  praised her students for their enthusiasm and commitment towards the cause.

“I’m really proud,” she said. “We’re not a huge studio and don’t have many kids but the ones we have are special. They care and are dedicated, and try to make a difference. They want to be part of something.”

During a Volunteer Appreciation Day, Sifu Rita was invited to Memphis, Tenn., and witnessed first-hand what the hospital was doing and where the money was going.

“When I physically saw how committed they are to what they do, I decided we need to do this all year,” she explained.

Since then Sifu Rita and her students have been intent on finding interesting and unique ways to fund raise all through the year.

 This past  winter, they screened the movie “Polar Express” at a school, while selling cookies and hot cocoa. The space and cocoa were donated and Sifu Rita  made the cookies herself, ensuring the $950 they raised all went straight to St. Jude.

With the efforts made by her students, it is clear to Sifu Rita that they are devoted to the cause and are influenced by the ideals instilled through their martial arts training. For example, this past year, one of her young students approached her principal and planned a hat day where students paid a dollar to wear one to school. With this one event, they raised over $300.

“They make good decisions and can be leaders, not just follow the group,” Sifu Rita said.

Though the students are part of a martial arts studio, Sifu Rita has an increased focus on the values of the practice beyond the physical aspects.

“We teach empathy, character,” she said. “It’s not about breaking boards. I want to break records.”

With St. Jude’s fiscal year almost at a close, Sifu Rita is confident they will go far beyond their past record and is already planning for future events, including a walk they could take part in.

Reflecting on the conversation that has increased her wish to give back and make an impact Sifu Rita said, “I’m so grateful St. Jude called me back in 2001. This is a legacy I want to see happen.”

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