Breaking good

Martial artists break boards for children’s hospital

USA Martial Arts Studio student Alex Janssen prepares to break a board Saturday at the studio in Naugatuck during a break-a-thon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as Matthew Hopkinson, of Beacon Falls, watches. –KEN MORSE

USA Martial Arts Studio student Alex Janssen prepares to break a board Saturday at the studio in Naugatuck during a break-a-thon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as Matthew Hopkinson, of Beacon Falls, watches. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — The USA Martial Arts studio in Naugatuck held a break-a-thon on Saturday to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Doug Wilke, owner of USA Martial Arts, was pleased with the 40 participants who took part in the fundraiser.

“This is our eighth year holding this fund-raising event for St. Jude,” Wilke said. “We also hold an in-house fundraiser for the Dr. Curtis E. Tate Scholarship Fund given to one of our students in the amount of $1,500.”

The break-a-thon began eight years ago when student Matthew Hopkinson, of Beacon Falls, approached his parents about wanting to start a fundraiser for St. Jude.

“I saw an ad in the Disney Magazine when I was younger and really wanted to do something like that,” said Matthew Hopkinson, a black belt and freshman at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. “My parents and I have been sponsoring this event ever since. They have been so supportive of my efforts and this fundraiser. It’s a way to give back to the community and it’s for a great cause.”

Wendy and Mark Hopkinson are not only proud of Matthew’s efforts they are very proud of Matt’s 8-year-old brother Andrew who broke a stack of four boards on his first attempt Saturday.

This year’s event was the most successful to date raising a little over $6,000 and topping last year’s mark of $5,300 raised for the hospital. USA Martial Arts student Alex Janssen raised the most money with $3,018.

Andrew Hopkinson, 8 of Beacon Falls, breaks a stack of four boards on his first attempt during USA Martial Arts’ break-a-thon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Saturday. –KEN MORSE

Andrew Hopkinson, 8 of Beacon Falls, breaks a stack of four boards on his first attempt during USA Martial Arts’ break-a-thon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Saturday. –KEN MORSE

When late entertainer Danny Thomas opened the doors to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1962 the survival rate for childhood cancer was less than 20 percent. Today, with the help of fundraisers like the break-a-thon, the hospital has been able to fund research and the survival rate is a little over 80 percent.

“What makes this such a worthy cause is that 83 percent of what is raised goes directly to research,” Wilke said. “The point of breaking boards from a student’s perspective is that it gives them a sense of accomplishment. They achieve something they didn’t think was possible and it also shows them what it means to do something worthwhile for others who are less fortunate.”

The success of the break-a-thon has the studio looking into holding a similar fundraiser for Autism in the fall at its Woodbury studio, according to Wilke.