BY JESSICA MILITELLO
On Saturday, Oct. 19, Maria’s Love Foundation held its sixth annual Kick-A-Thon at New York Martial Arts Academy in Astoria where students and local residents stopped by to support the event and raise money for the non-profit’s mission of helping families in need to pay medical bills.
The event included carnival games, prizes, face painting, and a bouncy house, along with light refreshments. Students from the school’s children and adult classes signed up to kick to meet this year’s goal of raising $10,000 for four children from St. Mary’s Hospital in Bayside to start locomotor training.
The organization’s founder, Antri Orfanos started working with St. Mary’s Hospital after spending time reaching out to hospitals in the area to find patients who were in need of financial assistance.
“We started working with St. Mary’s hospital in April 2016,” said Orfanos. “I was really excited to work with them specifically because they are a children’s hospital. We have helped over 21 children get wheelchairs or other medical equipment needed or helped families pay for locomotor training.”
Four children named Ariyah, Denis, Jake, and Austin from St. Mary’s Hospital were the event’s focus for raising funds. Each child has severe medical issues that were developed from birth or from the result of a serious accident that put them in need of locomotor training which consists of a process of rehabilitation after serious spinal cord injury has taken place.
Maria’s Love Foundation has its main office in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, location of New York Martial Arts Academy and has been working with the school since it was founded in order to raise funds to help families pay exorbitant medical bills in the instance of sickness or accidents that are not always fully covered by health insurance, or not covered at all in instances of families without any insurance. Maria’s Love held its first kick-a-thon in 2013, and it was such a great success for raising money and a fun time that it became one of the organization’s yearly fund raising events. This year, over 20 students from the school volunteered to do as many kicks as they can in one minute. Prior to the kick-a-thon students acquire sponsors who pledge an amount of their choice per kick in order to raise funds to meet the non-profit’s goal.
One student of almost two years, Allea Summers, personally resonated with the organization’s mission to help families with unsurmountable debt in the face of terrible illness.
“Cancer has affected my family personally and I know the painful reality of family members not having access to the proper care they need,” said Summers. “That’s what inspired my donation this year.”
After three rounds of kicks, students completed 1900 kicks and exceeded the organization’s goal by raising over $10,000. Other students also volunteered with assisting in holding pads for kicking, carnival games, and just showing up to support a good cause. Overall the event was extremely successful and more importantly made its goal of helping those in need.
“We raised over $10,000,” said Orfanos. “That means those amazing children at St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital will receive a lot of help towards their locomotor training.”