Vancouver martial arts instructor empowers inner city girls

Kick-a-Thon will fund KidSafe weekly program

Emma Lynds knows shes a good role model for girls. As the only female owner of an independent martial arts studio in Vancouver, she believes she is strong inside and out.

The 38-year-old connected earlier this year with the KidSafe Project Society and volunteered her time, offering six weeks of kickboxing and self-defence training to Grade 6 and 7 inner city girls. With the theme of connecting girls, inspiring futures of this years International Womens Day (March 8) in mind, Lynds has organized a KidSafe fundraiser for March 10.

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Lynds wants kids, youth, women and men to kick out their legs or kick in cash for the Kick-a-Thon shes organized. She aims to raise at least $6,000 to fund KidSafes weekly Girls Exploring Motion and Self after-school program for a year at one inner city school.

Lynds discovered GEMS when she was searching for a way to give to the community. Funding for the program, which ran for two years at two inner city elementary schools expired in 2011, so she devised six weeks of classes at Florence Nightingale elementary, near 12th and Kingsway. She saw her sessions help girls tap their inner power and decided to host a fundraiser for GEMS at her Elements Academy of Martial Arts on Dunbar Street near 29th.

There was just this growth inside of them and this sense of fulfillment and self-empowerment and they just looked really ignited, Lynds said.

GEMS evolved from after-school girls discussion groups, explains KidSafes manager of programming and development, Kristi Rintoul. Girls coming to the girls group were girls who werent involved in after-school sports. Their parents couldnt afford to put them in any type of dance or any extracurricular activities that those girls who arent involved in team sports would enjoy doing, she said. In the inner city, all thats free is if you join the basketball team.

GEMS saw Grade 6 and 7 girls try rock climbing, dance, martial arts, yoga and pilates, learn about body image, healthy, low-cost eating and self-esteem.

Fifteen-year-old Alyssa Diamond attends girls martial arts classes at Elements Academy. Shes felt her self-esteem and physical endurance improve and wants girls from lower-income families to be afforded a similar experience. Diamond intended to participate in the Kick-a-Thon, but has to work instead.

Rintoul appreciates Lyndss contributions. She found us. She saw the need, and third-party fundraisers are very rare in this industry, Rintoul said. The fact that she has taken this on and done this all, without asking for anything, is just so overwhelming, Im so, so thankful for it.

KidSafe provides spring, summer and winter break programs for 400 children from six inner city elementary schools.

But Rintoul hopes the Kick-a-Thon will see GEMS reinstated at Nightingale. I would love to have something just for the boys, too, because there are so many boys who dont join after-school sports teams, and so they just go home and spend their entire time in front of the computer when there are so many ways they can be active, she added.

For more information about the Kick-a-Thon, see elementsacademy.com.

crossi@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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