Flashback to August 12th, 2017 - nearly 100 grapplers show up to Five Rings Jiu Jitsu to help raise money for Friends of the Children. $14,000+ later and we had enough funds to start a youth jiu jitsu program at the charity's Rockwood facility.
Fast forward to October 2017 - Professon Tom Oberhue, Coach Dan VanDetta, and Five Rings brown belt and Friend of the Children CFO Matt Tsugawa introduce Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the youth mentors at our first staff seminar. This leads to the first two initial sessions at the Rockwood location in November and December, where almost 40 youth participants earned T-Shirts and their white belts. Our journey had officially begun!
Now that we are well into 2018, we have held 13 weekly classes since January. 18 of the kids have earned their uniforms by attending eight classes or more. Twenty-seven have come to five or more classes. Participants are earning stripes towards their yellow belts by learning and practicing a variety of skill areas, including flexibility, courage, reaction, speed, dexterity, and versatility. Mentors are actively assisting and sometimes participating in classes themselves. The vibe is always positive and we've already seen some amazing growth in the children's confidence and social interaction.
Our goal was to create pathways for the kids to learn a comprehensive self defense program with opportunities available to delve into sport jiu jitsu. We have been using the framework of our main academy’s skills program to offer achievement and advancement opportunities. This consists of eight primary skill areas with participants striving to achieve age appropriate mileposts. The overall concept revolves around having fun, staying healthy, safety and protection of self and others, and that this is something they can do for their whole life.
The program has used the funds raised to help purchase mats (thanks to our sponsor, Dollamur!) and gis (again, thanks to Gameness for their help!) and to help provide great instruction and support. We want to take this opportunity to once again thank all of those that helped contribute to this fantastic endeavor. Thank you!!!
Friends of the Children commits to standing alongside our community’s youth as they work to overcome barriers to their success. Each child receives one-on-one support and guidance from a salaried, professional mentor, from kindergarten through high school graduation – 12 and a half years, no matter what. Youth in the Friends program face considerable challenges, including placement in the foster care system, under-resourced neighborhood schools, homelessness, hunger, and disparities in access to and quality of health care. Despite these barriers, program youth enter adulthood with strong foundations for continuing achievement: 83% graduate high school or earn a GED, 93% avoid the juvenile justice system, and 98% avoid teen parenting. In 2015 and 2016, Friends was voted the #1 most admired non-profit in Oregon in the Portland Business Journal’s survey of Oregon CEOs.
We are really excited to see where the program goes from here. We have our first big belt promotion and community event coming up in June 2018, so keep your eyes open for more information about how you can be involved in this worthwhile cause.