They broke boards and bricks with their bodies. They shred bundles of straw with a sword. They kicked, and hit, and then kicked some more.
Whatever their skill level, from the youngest beginners to martial arts masters, the students of the Detroit Lakes School of Tae Kwon Do and Kumdo never failed to impress at the Break-A-Thon on Tuesday.
The students "had a blast" at the Break-A-Thon, according to the school's Master Lucas Holzhueter. So did the audience at the Washington Square Mall that day, which got to watch as about 450 wooden boards were split in two, along with a few bricks, by the students and instructors. Sometimes the boards were piled up, one on top of another on top of another, before being struck apart. Master Lucas himself did a big sword cutting presentation.
It was all an entertaining and charitable event to raise money for a good cause. Half the proceeds from the Break-A-Thon go to the school's scholarship fund and the other half to the Becker County Food Pantry. Holzhueter said about $2,200 was raised this year, "which was a great amount of money."
The martial arts school has been holding annual Break-A-Thons as a part of Detroit Lakes' Polar Fest for the past few years. They give the food pantry its portion of the proceeds in March, when all donations to the pantry are matched for the March FoodShare campaign. This way, it's like their donation is automatically doubled, making an even bigger difference.
"It's really good for kids at the gym (to donate to the food pantry)," said Holzhueter. "A food pantry representative talks to the kids about the impact that their donation has on the community... How much hamburger their donation can buy, or how many packs of mac and cheese, or cans of green beans. The kids kind of find that amazing."
Donations are raised through pledges that the students collect for the Break-A-Thon. Those dollars were able to go even further this year, Holzhueter said, thanks to boards provided by Stenerson Lumber.
A few special donations, made for specific requests, brought in even more dollars. Requests included "fancy breaks," "multiple board stacks," "timed breaks," "brick breaks," or, as was the case with Master Lucas's sword cutting presentation, for "Master Lucas doing something cool." He also broke 20 boards in response to a request.
He said it was a great event this year, overall, with a lot of audience involvement. One of his students, a young girl, broke her first brick at the Break-A-Thon, and two boys who thought they were just there to watch ended up getting to work with the school's black belt instructors to try their own hand at breaking boards.