Students of Yennie Martial Arts participate in the martial arts school's annual kickathon to raise funds for a family dealing with cancer. 
Students of Yennie Martial Arts participate in the martial arts school's annual kickathon to raise funds for a family dealing with cancer. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Shawn Yennie’s kids got their kicks for Meela.

“As martial artists, we build strength and character by giving back to people and our community, and this year, we raised $6,000 for Meela Hoover,” stated Yennie. “Altogether, we were able to donate $6,000 to the Hoover family. Our students set a goal of $6,000, and they made it happen. It was awesome to see most of the students donated some of their own money to the cause.”

Yennie is the proprietor of and instructor at Yennie Martial Arts. This year’s Kickin’ for Cancer fundraiser garnered pennies, dimes and lots of generosity for Chatfield-area toddler Meela Hoover and her family.

Kickin’ for Cancer is an annual event where students from Yennie Martial Arts gain donations and are sponsored to kick per dollar amount raised.

Meela is a little 3-year-old girl from the Chatfield area. She was diagnosed with pre-B cell ALL leukemia on March 3, 2017. She is about six months into treatment, with another year and a half to go.

“Meela has already been through a lot, with more to come,” Yennie explained in a letter sent to his students and their parents. “We may not be able to take her cancer away or find a cure ourselves, but we can help show our support and help to relieve some of the financial burden. So, let’s show the Hoover family that their local communities are here to support them and that we have their back.”

Yennie related that the kickathon’s kickoff was held the last week in September and that students had until the end of October to raise pledges to support their cause.

“The kickathon was held on Nov. 11 at our studio in Chatfield. We had roughly around 60 students participating,” he said. “Every year, we nominate a family, and this year, the Kayfes family nominated Meela and her family — we take nominations through the month of August, and we announce them at the beginning of September. It was easy to decide. All proceeds went to them.”

Yennie’s students gathered on Veterans’ Day and put their limbs to work to raise a dollar per kick, holding a contest to see who could bring in the most money and take a swing at cancer.

The first place winners were Wyatt and Eli Kayfes from Chatfield raising $1,885.03, and the second place winner was Jackson Rowe from Spring Valley who raised $1,400.

“It takes a break from our regular curriculum to focus our energies on our communities and those in need of our help,” Yennie said about the fundraiser. “Since we started donating right to the families, it’s put a whole new purpose to our fundraiser. It is expensive to pay for gas, meals and parking, let alone all the other expenses that go along with cancer.”

He added, “Up until a few weeks ago, Meela had to be seen by the doctor multiple times a week. We may not be able to find a cure for cancer or help to alleviate any of the pain Meela feels or the fears her family has, but we can show them that we are here for them and we care. If we can make people feel loved and cared for, then that is the greatest thing in the world. And we are helping to make well-rounded students. After they were done, we played some kicking games — they’re all just kicking machines!”

He remarked that his students enjoyed being able to present a check and some gifts to Meela and her parents.

“Meela was along with her parents and her three brothers. It was so nice to meet their wonderful family. Meela is an absolute sweetheart. They attended the end of the kickathon, then stayed and had pizza and a movie night with us,” Yennie said. “It was great for our students and us to get to know them. It really helps to put a face to what we are doing, and getting to know them makes them like family. You take care of your family. That is exactly how we want all of our students to walk away from this.”

He stated, “Our students are the best. We really do have a family-like atmosphere. We all care about each other and watch out for one another. And it’s not just our students, but their families, too. Thank you to all our students in their hard work that they put into this fundraiser this year.”

Yennie concluded, “Thank you, the communities, for your willingness to support our students. When you see our students come around to raise funds, remember that every little bit helps. You don’t have to donate a lot to make a difference. The fact that you donated at all says that you care.”