Unique ‘board’ meeting

Students at Vermillion Taekwondo found a unique way to commemorate 2012 and raise money at the same time.

Each year, they hold an organized "board break" that serves as a fundraiser for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

A young student breaks a board as part of the annual fundraiser Vermillion Taekwondo holds on behalf of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Vermillion Taekwondo has raised approximately $10,500 for the hospital over the past seven years. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

Last Saturday, they broke approximately 2,012 plastic and wood boards.

"We have collected a total of $10,500 in the last seven years, and historically we get a little over $1,000 each time we do it," said John Trefz, fifth-degree black belt, certified instructor and proprietor of Vermillion Taekwondo.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the students formed three lines, one containing 4-6-year-olds, the next 7-12-year-olds and the last those older than 12.

"We break 50 (boards) at a time, and that's 150 total," Trefz said. "Then we'll take a small rest, and keep on going until we get to 1,950 or so, and then we'll break actual wooden boards. First we break plastic. …

"It goes really fast, surprisingly. What takes the most time is breaking the wooden ones at the end," he said.

Trefz estimated 30 to 40 took part in Saturday's activities.

"But that's not everybody who takes part, because there are a lot of kids who collect money for St. Jude's that don't make it to the board break," he said. "I imagine there's probably around 70 to 80 kids that run around collecting money."

Brown belt Alex Hessman, 18, and first-degree black belt Dawson Daniels, 12, took part Saturday.

Hessman said he enjoys taekwondo because it helps him to stay focused.

"It's the first time I've done the board break marathon. It's been interesting," he said.

Daniels has been doing taekwondo since she was 4 years old.

"I mostly enjoy watching all the little kids, and it feels good knowing you're helping some kids in St. Jude's," she said.

Trefz said he began holding the board breaks after he was approached by St. Jude's seven years ago.

"I asked them some questions about (the event), and they explained how it works," he said. "So I thought I would try it. It was just a lot of fun."

It was rewarding, too, both for him and the students.

"The kids get awards for how much money they collect, so it's rewarding for them in that respect, too," he said.

Vermillion Taekwondo isn't the only local organization who holds fundraising events for St. Jude's – Trefz said a "fight night" recently was held at the DakotaDome by Tau Kappa Edpsilon.

The biggest reward is knowing they've helped children not only nationwide, but from South Dakota, as well, he said.

"St. Jude's has told me that there are 10 children … in their facilities that are from the state of South Dakota," he said. "So it's nice to know that we're helping out people that are close to us, too, not just other kids around the country.

"I think they do a great job down there. Their research has passed some milestones, so I think it's a great charity to be giving to," he said.

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