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Spotlight Nonprofit: Teaching kids with cancer to kick away pain and fear through martial arts

LatinaLista — Cancer sucks! For anyone diagnosed with it, it’s a horrific, painful, scary thing to go through. Watching someone go through the treatments, especially loved ones, is hard but watching a child endure the pain and fear of the disease is heart-wrenching.

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, or Rabbi G as he’s called, knew firsthand how much pain and suffering children with cancer endure. His own two-year-old daughter died from cancer. With a background in martial arts, clinical psychology and as a director of a New York-based summer camp for children with cancer, Rabbi G wanted to do something for children afflicted with cancer that would empower them and not just conquer their fear but their pain.

He decided to pull together all his skills and create an unique organization — Kids Kicking Cancer. Kids Kicking Cancer has a unique mission unlike other cancer organizations — “ease the pain of very sick children while empowering them to heal physically, spiritually and emotionally.”

To achieve this, children are taught martial arts, but it’s not about kicking and breaking boards. The organization focuses on teaching the children relaxation techniques and mental imagery by sharing with them how to breathe, meditate and do various karate exercises.

The purpose is for these children to put these skills to use the next time they feel stressed or are in pain. Enforcing the organization’s mantra of “pain is a message one does not have to accept,” Kids Kicking Cancer instructors accompany their students to hospitals and clinics when they undergo painful procedures such as spinal taps and bone marrow aspirations.

To raise awareness of the organization and highlight the karate skills the kids are learning, kids in the program put on karate showcases for community events. In the process, they become empowered like never before.

Children with cancer typically feel a tremendous loss of autonomy, control and personal identity. They are required to endure treatments that cause them to feel sick in order to heal. They are confronted with multiple fears, including mortality, hair loss, falling behind academically and socially, as well as many other issues that affect how they view their bodies, their lives and their destinies.

Rather than allowing children to view themselves as victims of disease, Kids Kicking Cancer trains pediatric cancer patients to see themselves as capable and important participants in their own healing. The impact of this change in perception on the psychological and emotional outlook of the children is dramatic.

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