Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, affectionately known as Rabbi G., has been chosen by CNN as one of the ten finalists for the Global Hero competition. He was nominated and chosen as one of the 24 Heroes, and selected by CNN as one of the top ten. The general public is invited to vote daily on the website, www.CNNHero.com and whoever receives the most votes wins $125,000 for their charity. Voting ends November 16.
“We are looking for 1 million people to follow our children and vote,” said Rabbi G. “In 3.9 minutes and 0 cents, you can help a child with cancer. When the children see the world learning from their power, they have less pain.”
Rabbi G. lost his 2-year-old daughter to leukemia in 1981. He founded the nonprofit, Kids Kicking Cancer in 1999, which helps children battling serious illnesses by using martial arts to manage pain during treatment. Kids Kicking Cancer has provided free classes and support for 5,000 children and their families.
Rabbi G. worked at a camp for children battling cancer for 12 years before founding Kids Kicking Cancer. Goldberg, a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do, tried to help a young camper who was in tremendous pain. He offered to teach the five-year old the martial art – and it worked. Classes and one-on-one support have helped more than 5,000 children and their families.
“In martial arts, you learn that pain is a message that you don’t have to listen to,” says Rabbi G. “That lesson is so unbelievably effective. Our mantra is Power. Peace. Purpose. We use martial arts as a platform for meditation, for relaxation and to allow children to gain these tools so that much of the fear, the anger and trauma that accompanies pain is tolerable.”
Kids Kicking Cancer caters to the whole family, not just the child diagnosed with cancer. Many services include:
· Martial arts, classes and uniforms
· Relaxation, meditation and empowerment training for children and siblings
· Individual support during clinical procedures and hospitalizations
· Home visits as needed
· Transportation to and from classes and events
· Special family-focused events, including the Annual Belting Ceremony, where children receive various colored karate belts acknowledging the level of expertise gained through training
· Sibling support programs
· Special black belt ceremonies for children at the end of their lives. (The black belt is embroidered with the child’s name on one side and the words “Master Teacher” on the other.)
“When the children demonstrate that they can bring in the light and let out the darkness through a series of breathing exercises, it changes people. When the children teach the breathing technique to others, they find purpose in their lives,” says Rabbi G.
The CNN website features a video of Haley Wallace telling the story of how she joined Kids Kicking Cancer after she was diagnosed with a tumor behind her eye last year. The 9 year-old used to run for the door when doctors attempted to administer her treatment. Through Goldberg’s program, Haley learned to control her fear and pain.
“The way I breathe in the light is, I think of all the happy thoughts. And then the way I breathe out the darkness is I think of the bad thoughts and blow them away,” said Haley, who recently completed chemotherapy. “I do have the power to make the pain go away.”
Haley Wallace (see her video on the CNN website) lives with her Grandmother, who developed breast cancer, and her Grandfather, who soon after, had to be treated for cancer in his face. A few months later, when Haley was diagnosed with a tumor behind her eye, she turned to Kids Kicking Cancer to help her through her treatments.
Haley now teaches Grandma and Grandpa how to “breathe in the light and blow out the darkness.” In the video, our young hero showed the world that for the first time that she did not have to be sedated to go through a seventy minute MRI. With her head held in a cage in the middle of a very big and noisy machine, Haley was able to remain totally calm while listening to Rabbi G. meditating with her over the speakers. Even when the contrast flowed through the IV, she did not move a muscle. When they wheeled Haley out of the room, the nurses were ready with confetti, party noisemakers, cheers and tears. They understood the power of this nine year old.
Kids Kicking Cancer has expanded its programs to New York, California and Florida. It also has programs in Italy, Israel and Canada.