Memorial Day Black Belt Project
Memorial Day is a federal holiday when Americans remember military personnel who have died while in service. It is celebrated on the last Monday of May and is often thought to be the start of the swimming season. For my second degree level one black belt project I volunteered at the First Annual Andrew Sipple Memorial Day Fundraiser held at my Glenridge neighborhood pool.
At eight o'clock in the morning, American flags lined the parking lot and the entrance to the pool, with banners hanging from the doorway. Red, white, and blue stars hung from the umbrellas on tables. A boy handed out patriotic leis to the swimmers. Delicious smells wafted from the tables of food, carrying the murmur of conversations with it. A long line formed from the crepes stand, and stretched well across the pavement. The announcer gave a speech about Andrew Sipple and Memorial Day, and then everyone sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The announcer called the names of the swimmers, young and old, as they lined up at their starting blocks. A horn blew and, in a flurry of arms, legs, and water, the swimmers were off. Little boys doggy-paddled beside old men who were breast-stroking. Teenagers swiftly displayed the crawl-stroke, executing fluid somersault turns as they reached each end of the pool. After a couple laps, they pulled themselves out of the water, greeted with applause, and the next group of swimmers waited for the horn. Spectators chattered at their tables, watching the swimmers while they waited for their food.
My first job of the morning was carrying plates and serving food, such as crepes, pancakes, fruit and coffee. After a while, I was stationed behind the tables where I helped take care of clean-up, answered questions about the food, and met plenty of new people. It was wonderful to see how many people came to contribute in any way they could, even if it was just buying breakfast. I learned that communities have a way of coming together and working as a team to make something like this event possible. People brought food, lent tables, and gave up their morning to help out. In a way, this is like TaeKwonDo. The TaeKwonDo family, made up of the instructors and their students, work together to make Johnsons' Tiger Rock fuctional. Without the instructors, who take the time to teach the students, the school would crumble. Similarly, the students need to be there to pay the money that keeps the school from going broke. At the Memorial Day event, the adults showed the volunteers what to do, and the participants paid the money that supported the project. Also, the Tiger Rock family often establishes volunteer work that benefits the community, just like this fundraiser.
The event, organized by the family of Andrew Sipple, was held in honor of the fallen, neighborhood soldier. It raised money to erect a memorial bench to remember Andrew. Donations were also collected for TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a program that aids military families who lose a loved one in the military service. It is important not to forget the survivors, as well as the fallen heroes. The families who have suffered are in great need, and TAPS is there to help, along with the community. Funds were raised by selling breakfast for the neighborhood and by sponsoring swimmers who swam laps down the pool, a paired event called Laps for TAPS.
I think this was my favorite black belt project so far. Not only was it community service, it was on Memorial Day, a holiday honoring fallen soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Most people only think of Memorial Day as the day when the pool opens, or a day off from school, but this event reminded us of the true importance of the holiday.
This holiday gives us a chance, or reminds us, to remember all the people who have given their lives in order to protect our country and preserve our freedom. Such sacrifice should be honored and remembered, and it was my honor to serve the families of those who have served our country.