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Students at C.K. Lee Taekwondo Academy kick in for a good cause

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Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second: who wouldn’t want to break a wooden board with a furious Taekwondo kick or punch in front of several hundred cheering onlookers? Now, imagine the aforementioned spectacle will help a philanthropically-minded local business raise over $10,000 this year to bene t Nationwide Children’s Hospital?

You’d deserve a roundhouse kick to the sternum if you turned that chance away.

But worry not, all of you closet martial artists: there’s still time. Now for the fourth straight year, the Upper Arlington-based C.K. Lee Taekwondo Academy will host the aptly named Health Kick, an action packed fundraiser benefiting Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The event will offer the academy’s students, along with any willing audience donor, the chance to break a board in front of hundreds of their closest friends.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“We go through around 1,000 boards every year,” said Christine Lee, daughter of the academy’s namesake C.K. Lee, so there’s plenty to go around.

The pair, along with two other family members, immigrated to the United States

from South Korea in 2011. They wasted no time in opening their now-thriving academy in 2013, which today serves nearly 300 students from the age of four to adult.

Christine is a dedicated student of Taekwondo herself. Having studied it since the age of seven, she is currently a regular sparring competitor and a bonafide instructor at the academy, all while maintaining a full time course load as a student at Ohio State.

Likewise, C.K., now 53, has been a student of the martial art since he was a child. “Taekwondo has a focus on self control, courtesy, and respect for others,” he said, speaking to the benefits of the practice. Lee adopts this same holistic, progressive approach to teaching as well. “Teaching Taekwondo is similar to being a father, where I’m caring and nice when I can be, but firm and strict when necessary. Many students consider us to be like a second family.”

Testament to Lee’s style of instruction is nine year old black belt Taran Tein, who attends the academy with his mother (and our very own photographer) Rebecca and sister Calliope. Tien recalls extracting more than simply martial arts training, but important personal lessons from sessions with C.K.

While Tien gushes about the kindness and enthusiasm of Lee, he recalls an important early lesson in his training career. “On one of my first days, I kept trying to show off things without listening. Later when I would try to high five master Lee, he didn’t high five me. He would put his hands behind his back.” Lee eventually took Tien aside and gently explained to him that listening to his instructions was critical to success. He remembers the event vividly, and it appears it has generated an amount of productive self awareness one wouldn’t expect from a 9 year old. “I feel like I’m more mature now,” he said. “There’s a reason he didn’t high five me, and I know that.”

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And when Lee isn’t providing paternal advice to his nearly 300 students, the Taekwondo Grandmaster is bestowing critical Columbus charities with funding.

In the last three years of its operation, Health Kick has raised $28,000 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and a fundraising event that has always been solicited by the students.

The event is the Columbus-area iteration of a national fundraiser that began in Buffalo, New York, with Taekwondo Grandmaster Sun Ki Chong, called the ATU National Health Kick, or Kicking for Miracles. Since its inception, it has raised millions of dollars for charities across the county.

The 2019 C.K. Lee Academy Health Kick will be held in the Centennial High School gym, since the fundraiser is now too large for Hastings Middle School, its former venue, and the Lees expect well over 300 people to be in attendance.

Students from the academy will start the event by holding their final belt ceremony of the year, which will include students performing their forms—a coordinated series of kicks, punches and other maneuvers that martial artists must run through correctly to advance.

After another short demonstration of forms by the academy’s demo team, Lee’s students will begin breaking broads, and eventually audience members will be able to try their hand (or more likely their foot) at the task, after making a $10 donation.

According to Tien, donors need not worry about failing. “Everyone should be able to do it,” he said. “We’re trained to hold it the right way, and that makes it a lot easier to break.”

And while the many youth receiving care from Nationwide Children’s will no doubt benefit from the 2019 Health Kick, Lee’s unique approach to philanthropy aims to help his students just as much.

“I think that even though many kids won’t be able to raise $100, by raising even $1 or $2 they will be able to feel like they’re a part of the fundraiser,” Lee says. “They’ll see at the end how that small amount of money becomes over $10,000, and hopefully that act of kindness becomes a habit for them.”

The 2019 Health Kick fundraiser will take place at Centennial High School, located at 1441 Bethel Rd., on Saturday, December 7 from 10:30 AM until 1:30 PM.

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Now Streaming: Columbus entertainers find virtual ways to perform

Mitch Hooper

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As Columbus entertainers prepared for warm weather and folks returning to the bars, COVID-19 came in and put it to a halt. The bars being closed indefinitely not only impacts owners, servers, and bartenders, it impacts the performers who rely on these places as a platform to showcase their talents. When folks can't come support local entertainers, what can they do?

What if they bring their talents to them? That's what many Columbus entertainers are doing during social distancing. While "work from home" wasn't much an option before this, comedians such as Amber Falter and Ian Miller are taking to Instagram Live and other streaming platforms to perform.

The first virtual show the two did was with Alexis Nelson of BarkBox, and admittedly, they were a little nervous about not having an audience for feedback.

"I was actually scared to start," Miller said. "Jokes don’t have what I call 'standalone timing.' You need a give and take with the audience, you build it into your jokes. The thought of telling jokes without immediate feedback was terrifying."

The two said the show went great and it didn't take long for both of them to enjoy streaming their comedy. Falter quickly did another virtual show, A Hamantha and Brisket Comedy Hours, with Samantha Sizemore and Bridjet Mendy themed around dating stories via Zoom. Miller, on the other hand, started a weekly story telling show on his Twitch channel Glass Cannon Comedy.

Falter, co-host of ACLU Stand-Up For Choice, says there's even been some silver linings to streaming her comedy.

"I was joking with one of my friends that is always like, 'Hey, I'm going to make it to the show! Can't wait to see you at the show!' and then they never make it out," Falter laughed. "Now you have no excuse, honey!"

As for the future ACLU Stand-Up For Choice comedy events, Falter said she and others involved, such as co-host Pat Deering, are figuring out how to do so through streaming.

Miller said he has seen many of his shows canceled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. He had six shows slated across 13 days, all of which have been canceled. Additionally, his monthly story telling show as well as Glass Cannon's quarterly-themed shows are suspended.

"It’s been rough. There may not have been of ton of Columbus comics “paying the bills” with comedy, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t felt the impact," Miller said "Times are tough, and it’s really hard to have a side hustle of any kind when you know leaving your house could put yourself and other in danger."

And that's why he believes it's so important to support entertainers in anyway you can. Whether that be through a share or follow on social media, every little bit helps grow their platform.

Falter echoed this sentiment, too.

"I want this to become a source of income and I've been extremely, extremely grateful for the people that have even sent like $2," she said. "Or not even that, if they just followed me on Instagram or told me I had a good set. [By just] saying, "Hey that was really fun, thanks so much," that alone is making me super emotional."

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Gallery: ‘Thank You’ to the Heroes of (614)

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The kids and families of Columbus have been busy creating some of the cutest 'Thank You' cards for you, the superheroes of our community helping out in this critical time. We thank you and your families for everything you're doing to help keep Columbus safe.For more information (or to contribute) click here. 
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We Will Do It: Dr. Amy Acton is determined, not afraid

J.R. McMillan

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The announcement was shocking, even to the pool of hardened reporters gathered in anxious anticipation. On March 12, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered the closure of all schools in the state for at least three weeks to hopefully halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Illustration by Sarah Moore

With only a handful of confirmed cases, based largely on statistical models and patterns emerging from cities and countries around the world, Ohio was among the first to signal, almost prophetically, that life as we all knew it was about to change dramatically, perhaps forever.

Then skepticism suddenly turned to stunned silence as Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton stepped forward to reveal the possibility that more than 100,000 Ohioans were already carrying the virus.

But this dire presumption wasn’t delivered with cold calculation by a career bureaucrat who dithers or withers in front of the cameras. Instead, Acton did something remarkable, in real time. In her signature white coat and without a whiff of wonk, she calmly and confidently broke down the math behind the decision and the prediction, at one point comparing the delay in reliable data to the light of a distant star whose brightness we can only see long after the moment has passed.

And with that, Ohioans discovered the light of a different kind of star, and her moment is now.

Even before Acton was a household name, she was already an unlikely hero. A physician since 1994, she honed both her approachable bedside manner and public policy persona at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an assistant professor at Ohio State. During her brief tenure at The Columbus Foundation, Acton was instrumental in raising nearly $2.5 million in just six weeks to combat youth homelessness, blowing past every expectation. It was a philanthropic success that was also hauntingly personal.

It isn’t without irony that as Ohio businesses close their doors, many for the last time, that Youngstown’s venerated daily newspaper, The Vindicator, published its final edition this past August with an intimate portrait of Acton. Then, she was still the local homecoming queen who had beaten the odds, gone on to college, ultimately becoming the top public health official in the state.

The “grit and grace” we see today, so noted by Doug Kridler, President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation, was undeniably born of a chaotic, often tragic, childhood. Acton’s parents separated when she was just three, and in the decade that followed before reuniting with her father, she lived in a constant state of uncertainty. This included living in more than a dozen places in as many years across the country, some less desirable than others; she lived once in an unfinished basement, and even spent a winter in a tent. Only after abuse at the hands of one of her mother’s string of boyfriends did life for Acton finally start to turn around. Her father was granted full custody, and she’s never seen her mother again.

But even this backstory only surfaced in retrospect. The newspaper’s website also shut down a day after the final edition hit the streets. No likes, shares, or tweets. Only later were the archives posted online, with that closing interview receiving overdue attention in recent weeks, much like Acton herself.

“Lots of powerful souls walk among us,” noted Todd Franko, former Editor in Chief of The Vindicator. “Last August, she walked in and walked out of our office, and no one knew her. They know her now.”

Yet in darkness, there is still light, with dutiful denizens across the state tuning in daily for afternoon “Wine with DeWine.” But even that fierce following may pale in comparison to the more than 50,000 members of Acton’s entirely unofficial Facebook fan club. The conversation waxes and wanes from harrowing accounts to rays of revelry, from the testimonials of healthcare providers on the frontline of the crisis to heated debate about which actress should portray Acton in some future Hollywood feature. (For those keeping score, Allison Janney, Dana Delany, and Anne Hathaway are currently the top casting contenders.) Local apparel company Homage also honored her with a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Not all heroes wear capes.”

Even Acton herself is not above public levity amid unprecedented circumstances. A photo from a recent morning meeting in the lower level of the statehouse went viral, with staffers seemingly orbiting a laughing Acton from a safe social distance. It was a rare and candid glimpse of the loyalty she fosters among the small army she inspires, no longer
in anonymity.

Her candor coupled with compassion is at the heart of her appeal. The mother of six, one of whom offers her his own daily briefings on her online following from his home in Menlo Park, has been called “Ohio’s Mom” for the tough love that belies every escalating restriction that unfolds aimed at minimizing the worst case scenarios.

It’s the same honesty tempered with hope that won DeWine over barely a year ago. Acton neither sought nor expected to become the governor’s final, perhaps his most crucial, cabinet selection. In discussing the role with him, she offered an unvarnished, apolitical assessment of Ohio’s challenges and opportunities to improve public health, and prepare for unforeseen threats to it.

Thankfully, he hired her anyway.

The hasty cancellation of in-person voting the day before the state’s primary and extension of absentee voting by mail was deemed politically untenable, until it wasn’t. After what was expected to be an uncontested delay erupted into a last-minute legal reversal, Acton’s authority to protect citizens in the midst of a public health emergency found precedent in an obscure provision of the Ohio Revised Code from 1886 in response to an outbreak of tuberculosis. 

Now, Ohio leads the country in its response, with fellow states following suit, though not without criticism. The impact on businesses directly and indirectly is as controversial as it is unavoidable. DeWine is charged with an impossible task, desperately trying to land a plane safely, despite the fact that it’s coming apart in the air. There will be casualties, actual and economic. But reducing the former requires increasing the latter. Acton is not only his copilot, but is additionally charged with assuring passengers that they are doing everything they can just
to survive.

This is why we need Acton right now—she’s a guiding star in what often seems like an endless night. When human nature and history tend to suggest turning on each other, she’s quick to remind us that we’re all in this together. She’s the hero we didn’t know was in our midst, the same powerful soul who walked up to a podium and into our lives barely a month ago practically unknown, but who is now a part of our daily routine. When all of this is behind us, we’re going to look back on how we have changed. And when that day comes, we will surely have Acton to thank for telling us exactly what we needed to hear, when we needed to hear it, just to get through another day. We should all be forever grateful for her words.

“I don’t want you to be afraid. I’m not afraid. I am determined,” Acton famously confessed. “All of us are going to have to sacrifice. And I know someday, we’ll be looking back and wondering what was it we did in
this moment.”

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