Before the annual Kick-a-Thon took place this year, Karate America Verona owner and instructor Jeff Christensen asked his students consider where they’d get their next meal should their parents come home one day no longer employed.

“‘Are you going to be going to Culver’s?’” Christensen said, repeating the questions he posed for the students. “‘Are you going to be going to Miller (and Sons Supermarket) and buying a bunch of food? Where are you going to eat?’ That always gets their attention, when you put it in that perspective.”

That question hit home for the Karate America students, who raised $13,052 for Badger Prairie Needs Network in just 45 seconds during this year’s Kick-a-Thon on Saturday, Aug. 10, Christensen said.

“The idea is how much can we make, and how fast can we make it?” he said.

That money will purchase 65,000 pounds of food, which will turn into 54,000 meals for families in the Verona Zip code and throughout the Verona Area School District.

“Jeff brought us a box yesterday with about two inches full of checks in it, and about four inches of cash,” BPNN executive director Marcia Kasieta told the Press last week Wednesday. “So we’re going through the process of entering all of that into a spreadsheet, which is tedious to say the least, but amazing when you look at how many people donated to this. It was such a community effort.”

During the Kick-a-Thon, karate students kick through X-ray paper and have people offer a pledge for however many times students successfully do a front kick through paper within 15 seconds.

“The idea is very simple – you call up your grandma and you say, ‘Grandma, I’m doing our Kick-a-Thon, would you like to pledge a dollar per kick?’” he said. “It’s an incredibly simple thing to do.”

In the 22 years the Kick-a-Thon has been held, Christensen’s students have raised a little more than $400,428 for a variety of charities, including St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the American Red Cross and the Ronald McDonald House for many years.

This year, Christensen decided to keep the donated funds local.

Karate America was a donor for BPNN’s Packers Tailgate Tour in April 2018, and Christensen already had a personal connection to Bob Kasieta, the former BPNN board president – Bob was Christensen’s wife’s law school professor.

“They’re great people, it’s local, they’re doing such a valuable thing in our community,” Christensen said.

He looks to teach students about respect and how to be good to other people when they’re not on the mat, he said.

The Kick-a-Thon aligns with teachings at Karate America that don’t involve front kicks or blocks, Christensen said.

The whole point of the Kick-a-Thon, Christensen said, is not the specific charity or the money raised, but giving students the opportunity to give back to others.

“They need to give back, they need to be a part of a community, they need to do good things for good people,” he said.

“I can teach anyone to kick and punch, that’s not a hard thing to do,” Christensen added. “What I want to be able to do is (teach) good character, good integrity – that’s what we’re trying to teach.”

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