Weston Dill, 9, shows his taekwondo black belt. It’s embroidered in pink with his name and rank in English and Korean. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Weston Dill, 9, shows his taekwondo black belt. It’s embroidered in pink with his name and rank in English and Korean. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Pink belts battle cancer

Martial arts school fundraiser helps South Whidbey resident

They sold chicken eggs, raided piggy banks and learned about breast cancer and the power of giving.

Tuesday, young students of taekwondo were recognized for achieving 100 percent class participation in a breast cancer pink belt October fundraiser.

“Today is their reward,” Amber Terrell, a level 3 instructor, said after setting up a table of treats. “They get to come in costume for a Halloween party.”

All classes at Armstrong’s ATA Martial Arts locations in Clinton and Oak Harbor participated in the fundraiser; nearly $1,000 was raised.

Terrell, a black belt, second degree recommended, teaches taekwondo at the tiger level, ages 3-6, at Armstrong’s Ken Korner’s studio. She challenged her class by offering a fun day if all bought $25 pink belts; they were the only class at the two schools to achieve 100 percent participation.

One of Terrell’s students decided to pay for a classmate who couldn’t afford it.

“He paid extra money and told me he wanted to pay it forward,” said Terrell. “It actually started a thing and it happened three or more four more times.”

School founder Robert Armstrong wasn’t able to attend; he was off earning his fifth black belt in San Diego.

“We’ve been open for five years and each year we’ve done this,” Armstrong said in a phone interview. “Before, we participated in a national campaign called Wishing for Mommy. This time, we wanted to give back to the community.”

The South Whidbey woman chosen among nominations is expected to be at Saturday’s taekwondo tournament at Armstrong’s Clinton location.

At Tuesday’s fun day turned Halloween party, ninja turtles, firefighters, princesses and other assorted kids in costumes were each topped off with a pink belt. Attending parents snugly wrapped the symbolic belt around many small waists.

Belt colors indicate the level of skill in the Korean martial art, from white to black. A “pink belt revolution” national campaign at all ATA schools started six years ago, joining the pink-themed breast cancer awareness month of October.

“I think the fundraising helped them learn about being able to give a bit and what some people go through,” said Dillon Rogers, who watched his two kids run around while holding his baby daughter.

Beyond dispensing lessons of self-esteem, respect and discipline, Rogers said taekwondo instructors also impart lessons of life.

“They’re big on learning about preventing bullying,” he said. “They really teach them that voice is their biggest weapon.”

Helping a local resident with breast cancer instead of contributing to a national campaign probably inspired more parents to donate toward the belt pinks, some said.

“I love that the money is going directly to a person,” said Jenny Dill, whose son and daughter both take taekwondo classes.

Her son, Weston, has participated in the breast cancer pink belt event for the third consecutive year. He’s earned his black belt, the most advanced color. His name and rank are stitched in pink on his black belt in English and Korean.

Weston Dill, 9, said he enjoys the sport for many reasons.

“I like competing and the sparring is fun,” he said. “And I like learning new forms of Korean martial arts.”

One dad also got in on Tuesday’s fun, prancing down the hall as a unicorn with a pink horn, blond wig and pink hat.

“It’s all about the pink,” laughed Damien Cortez. His 7-year-old twins used money they earn selling eggs to buy their pink belts.

“They seemed to have a good grasp on what the money is going toward,” he said. “We recently lost a friend to brain cancer so the concept isn’t that far off.”

Jennifer Cisney helps her son, Gunnar, tie on his pink belt at a Halloween party for the taekwondo Tiger class at Armstrong’s ATA Martial Arts in Clinton. Kids were treated to a fun day after fundraising for the October pink belt campaign. (Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Jennifer Cisney helps her son, Gunnar, tie on his pink belt at a Halloween party for the taekwondo Tiger class at Armstrong’s ATA Martial Arts in Clinton. Kids were treated to a fun day after fundraising for the October pink belt campaign. (Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Trinity Rodriguez gets some help with her new pink belt from Jenny Dill as her father, Isaac, looks on.

Trinity Rodriguez gets some help with her new pink belt from Jenny Dill as her father, Isaac, looks on.

Dillon Rogers, a volunteer firefighter, fixes the firefighting costume of his son, Zachary, at Tuesday’s gathering of a taekwondo Tiger class. As a reward for full fundraising participation in the pink belt campaign, the class was treated to a Halloween party by their instructor.

Dillon Rogers, a volunteer firefighter, fixes the firefighting costume of his son, Zachary, at Tuesday’s gathering of a taekwondo Tiger class. As a reward for full fundraising participation in the pink belt campaign, the class was treated to a Halloween party by their instructor.

Dad Damien Cortez couldn’t resist dressing as a unicorn for a Halloween gathering Tuesday at Armstrong’s ATA Martial Arts Clinton school. As his two older children enjoyed a taekwondo class treat for their pink belt fundraising efforts, Cortez watched his youngest bunny.

Dad Damien Cortez couldn’t resist dressing as a unicorn for a Halloween gathering Tuesday at Armstrong’s ATA Martial Arts Clinton school. As his two older children enjoyed a taekwondo class treat for their pink belt fundraising efforts, Cortez watched his youngest bunny.

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