Tony was a shy child, a bit overweight and often bullied by his peers. That was before Children International. It was through the classes offered as a part of UALR Children Internationalâ€™s after school program â€śKidsâ€™ Clubâ€ť that this shy child broke out of his shell and turned his life around. The programâ€™s discipline, physical fitness, positive affirmations and confessions gave Tony just the spark he needed. Tony thrived under the tutelage of Master Anderson of Andersonâ€™s Taekwondo and would often help lead the entire class. Going from beginner to black belt in two short years, it goes without saying the bullying soon stopped and friendships were formed as children began to know his name.
His self esteem skyrocketed. Soon, his weight dropped, his grades shot up and he became one of the most popular kids at school. Tony remained on the schoolâ€™s honor roll the entire time he was in the program. â€śChildren International has exposed not only Tony but the rest of my family to things we otherwise would not have been exposed to,â€ť said Tonyâ€™s mom Sherry. â€śBecause of his involvement in Children Internationalâ€™s Taekwondo program, Tony has traveled to places like Orlando, FL, Las Vegas, NV and Houston, TX with his family by his side in support.â€ť Sherry is very proud of her sonâ€™s accomplishments and wishes sheâ€™d known about Kids Club when her older children were in school.
Sherry credits Children International for bringing Tony out of his shell and turning her sonâ€™s life around both socially and academically. â€śI donâ€™t think the sponsors realize how much their gifts affect the lives of children and their families,â€ť she added. â€śThe coats at winter time, the backpacks full of school supplies to help start the school year and extra gifts at Christmas time, it helps lift the burden and really means so much to us.â€ť She beamed. â€śI just canâ€™t say enough about the program.â€ť
Kidsâ€™ Club helped bring out the leader in Tony that has always been there, but might have never been discovered as he cowered under the pressures of bullies. â€śTony is a natural leader,â€ť said Kristin Koenigsfest, Education Manager for UALR Children International. â€śHe took taekwondo very seriously and thrived under the program.â€ť
The other students also see the leader in him, voting him CEO of Children Internationalâ€™s Mind Your Own Business Summer Program every year without fail. Though Tony has moved on to junior high school, he still finds time to return to his former elementary to give back and help out in the after school program every chance he gets.
Though he has developed an interest in basketball and other sports, he gives up anything that threatens his time with taekwondo. His mother smiles when she speaks of how his appointment at UALR Children Internationalâ€™s Future Smiles Dental Clinic based at his former elementary went hours past the appointed time because he had to stay and help out. She never worries when heâ€™s there because she knows heâ€™s in good hands.Tameka Riley Communications Consultant University of Arkansas at Little Rock