For the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, there are currently about 200 children on the waitlist who are eagerly seeking mentors. To address this need, The Blast Muay Thai Kickboxing Gym has launched “Kicks for Kids,” a fundraising initiative that will raise money to recruit additional mentors and reduce the existing waitlist.
The Blast Muay Thai Gym students and staff will unite for a “kick-a-thon” event on Saturday, Dec. 16, committing to one kick per dollar raised.
The Blast Muay Thai Kickboxing Gym is owned and operated by Mark “ShaH” Evans, who is also one of the founding members and vice president of the Urban Community Arts Network, which is dedicated to supporting sustainability in the Madison music community and advocating for equity in the local arts and entertainment ecosystem.
“I have a couple of students here at the gym – one is actually a Big Brother and one is a Big Sister and I was thinking, ‘OK, I’m doing all this stuff with hip hop in the community…. What can I do that is just gym-related to help the community?”
And right then and there Evans came up with a crazy idea. What about hosting some type of fundraiser where he and his students throw kicks?
“I was just sitting at my table at my house and I was like ….’Kick-a-thon!’. I just want to throw kicks. What if we just raise money and we throw kicks? For every dollar we get, we throw a kick,” Evans remembers.
“I first set my sights on 1,000 kicks … and thought: how long would that take? Ten people busting out 100 kicks… that will take 20 or 30 minutes I estimated,” Evans says. “That’s not hard enough.”
After thinking about a number like 5,000, Evans went right to 10,000 kicks.
“That’s a challenge! That’s it. We can do that. Any type of kick they want to do,” Evans says. “I knew I wanted it to be kicks and not punches because punches you can throw hundreds of punches in no time and it’s not the same. You don’t feel the same tax on your body and I wanted to make sure that we are working for it.”
Evans says he has almost 80 students in all of his classes at The Blast Muay Thai Kickboxing Gym. “I don’t know if they’re all going to make it [to the Kicks for Kids fundraiser], but the goal is to have as many as possible. So that’s going out in newsletters and before every class there’s an announcement about it to see how many people we can get.”
Evans says that he just loved the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is to create meaningful, one-to-one mentoring matches between dedicated adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) aged 6-18.
“And as far as teaming up with Big Brother Big Sisters, it was just a matter of I love what they do. I love what they stand for,” Evans says. “I had a great conversation with people at Big Brothers Big Sisters and they told me how much of a struggle it’s been since COVID and that they basically have more kids than they have mentors. For me, it just seems like it’s such a great fit.”
Bethany Ordaz, the community engagement and events manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, agrees telling Madison365 that BBBS is “very excited about this partnership.”
“We chatted and they were very interested in supporting our recruitment effort and we are gearing up for February and March when we’re gonna run concentrated recruitment efforts called ‘It takes little to be big,'” Ordaz says. “So the funds being raised right now by The Blast Gym are going to go towards that recruitment effort in a couple of months
“It all came together very nicely and we love having the opportunity to reach a different audience and we’re excited that they wanted to partner with us,” she adds.
Mentorship is something that is very personal for Evans.
“Without coaches and mentors, I’m probably a kid that gets shot or goes to prison … because my home life wasn’t that great. And so I relied on the father figures and the coaches and the people that didn’t necessarily tell me not to do something …. they just told me, ‘This is the way you’re headed if you keep doing what you’re doing. This is what’s going on.’ I’m thankful for the coaches spending time with me and telling me that I was a good person and telling me positive things helped me when I was young. I didn’t realize how much of an impact it had when I was a kid.
“I understand it now more at 43 the impact that that had on my life and probably kept me from making some tragic decisions that would have altered my life completely. I love that now we have a chance to give back. “
Community members will be able to support the Kicks for Kids fundraiser for 10 more days. Click here to make a donation. So far, they have already raised $1,700. Evans is confident they will make it to $10,000.
“I don’t see us doing any other kicks but 10,000 kicks,” he says, smiling.
“Or more! It would be awesome if we’d reach $15,000 and we’re stuck doing 15,000 kicks. I would just stay here by myself ripping out kicks even if it took me all day,” he adds.