On Saturday, October 11th, the Clinch Academy in Frederick, MD hosted its first annual Grapplethon fundraising event to support The Raining Season Orphanage in Sierra Leone, Africa. More than 60 grapplers participated from martial arts academies near and far in this 12 hour Brazillian Jiu Jitsu extravaganza .
Participants of all ages and skill levels collected donations through sponsorships and tested themselves for 12 hours of grappling. The event featured black belt instructed seminars by Clinch Academy owner, Luke Rinehart, retired Frederick County Chief of Police, Tom Ledwell, Evolve Academy’s Mike Moses and Clinch Academy’s Adam McWilliams.
“Just being a business owner and to have the opportunity to host such an event as the grapplethon for the orphans in Sierra Leone is a huge blessing. I am thankful that I have the place, space and time to help support The Raining Season in providing for these children. I am also thankful to all my students who are eager to help and to Judy Riley for her initiative and hard work in organizing & putting this event together,” says Luke Rinehart.
Judy Riley, organizer of the event, is a brown belt in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu who trains regularly at the Clinch Academy. Her connection to The Raining Season stems from the adoption of her youngest daughter from Sierra Leone. Ms Riley says, “When I first heard of the idea of a grapplethon, it seemed an ideal way to combine my passion for martial arts with my passion for orphan care. At the time I began planning the event, the goal was to raise money for the purchase of a ‘poda’ (mini-bus) for the Center. But as event planning progressed the Ebola outbreak had become center stage to the news in Sierra Leone. It was clear that the needs of the 102 children and staff had shifted to surviving this crisis. “
On September 1st, The Raining Season implemented a lockdown of the compound to minimize exposure to the Ebola virus. Provisions such as fuel to run generators, rice, water, diapers and cleaning supplies were gathered in a rush of fundraising efforts to last a period of 3 months. The provisions are quickly being diminished. The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending a lockdown of 9 months for which funds have yet to be raised.
Founder of The Raining Season, Erica Stone Rust, explains that the cost of the basic necessities to run the center has skyrocketed due to demand. The financial strain to meet rising costs as well as implement new Ebola safeguards have placed a heavy burden on the orphanage. A quarantine room has been prepared to isolate a child if needed, an additional armed guard has been hired to patrol the gate and a home visiting doctor is being utilized to avoid exposure to the virus at the hospital. These additional expenses are not accounted for in the budget.
“Sometimes problems seem so insurmountable and too big for any one person to make a difference. I think people really do want to help, but often feel their personal contribution won’t make a difference in a crisis that spans several countries,” says Ms Riley. “I wanted my friends and training partners to know that there is an organization they could trust, whose founders I personally know, and that they could directly affect the lives of the 102 children at TRS.”
The Grapplethon provided an opportunity for the BJJ community to make a difference. Grapplers were each given a picture and name of the child they were ‘rolling’ for. They set the timer to 5 minute rounds, turned up the music, and got started. After 12 hours of rolling, they were exhausted, sweaty, empowered and accomplished as they walked away from the event. In total, grapplers, spectators and donors raised over $10,000 for the children of The Raining Season Orphanage.
“I am thrilled with the success of the Grapplethon and am so grateful for the entire Jiu Jitsu community for supporting this event. I would like to thank Luke Rinehart, owner of Clinch Academy for hosting the Grapplethon. Numerous sponsors stepped up, including Century Ford Motor of Mt. Airy, BDR Express, GAC Services, Riley Financial Services, Guru Gi, Downtown Piano Works, Enforme Interactive, Drama Rocks, Dominoes Pizza of New Market and Adventure Park USA. The generosity of these local businesses is a tribute to the good hearted people of Frederick County,” says Ms Riley.
The Raining Season Orphan Care Center continues to struggle for the safety and care of their children during the Ebola crisis. You can help provide needed supplies for the children by donating to www.helpstopebola.com. If you would like to learn more about The Raining Season, visit TheRainingSeason.org.
Updates with news about the Center and the community are published regularly via The Raining Season Blog at SaveTheOrphan.blogspot.com. The Facebook event page for the Clinch Academy Grapplethon (with more pictures etc) can be found here.