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Family Karate Summer Camp isn't Just Kicking and Punching

Family Karate Super Center in South Brunswick offers lessons in values and character during their summer camp program

Last year, the Family Karate Super Center of South and North Brunswick created a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. summer program for kids, to keep them fit and entertained, all while teaching important life values.

 This week marks the end of the second summer program, which started July 18 at the North Brunswick center. The first two weeks were designed for an older set of campers, while the last two weeks, held at the South Brunswick location, were designed for the younger campers.

Fronted by Allisia Corl, a Rutgers University junior and seasoned instructor at the karate center, the camp entertains students with martial arts activities, as well as typical summer camp games.

“She’s very systematic and she’s got a great way with the kids,” Family Karate founder Donnalynn Patakos said of Corl. “They love her.”

Corl, with the guidance of Patakos and help from fellow staff members, designed the camp structure using a trial-and-error method, where she observed what worked best year to year.

“We have all day activities, not just martial arts, which is really important for people to know – it’s not like their kicking and punching all day long,” Corl said.

For this year’s program, campers participated in theme days after the scheduled martial arts and weapons form training. Theme days included Hawaiian day, pet day, science day, and – a camper favorite – water day. Corl works with Patakos and other campers to relate the themes to every day values, such as the importance of staying hydrated.

Patakos, a former East Coast representative for Christian Dior, founded Family Karate Super Center in 1987 at the North Brunswick location. In 2001, the business opened up on Ridge Road in South Brunswick.

“You help another human being become confident – you help them realize they could do something they didn’t think they could,” Patakos said. “That sense of confidence doesn’t come with many other things. We all work together to make people succeed.”

To push her initiatives further, Patakos created the Martial Arts International Honors Society (MAIHS) for a very selective group of students that excel in the martial arts, academically, and in character.

“They’re fantastic kids and they really dedicate their time to come here,” Patakos said of the counselors and MAIHS students. “They’re on the same page and the atmosphere here is – it’s fun and loving, and that’s what the kids need.”

The MAIHS students are encouraged to develop philanthropic programs for the center within themselves, only lightly guided by Patakos’s advising.

A product of a MAIHS students’ collaboration, a “Kick-a-Thon” will be held on Friday, October 21 as a fundraiser for the Olive Osmond Foundation. The foundation, inspired by the deaf children of the famous Osmond singing family, will use the money to donate hearing aids to children with hearing conditions.

Michael Lagunovich, a high school sophomore and member of the selected MAIHS group, is instrumental in the planning and organization of the event. For each dollar donated to the organization, a student or family member performs a kick.

“It’s a big community gathering to help other human beings,” Lagunovich said.  “I feel good helping others.”

The karate center held a similar event eight years ago, when a room full of about 300 students and family members stood up to perform the final kicks in a demonstration of community togetherness, according to Patakos.

“That’s the kind of feeling we want to bring,” Patakos said. “We want them to understand the importance of giving back in general.”

Patakos and the counselors are hopeful for the growth in popularity and improvement of the camp’s future summer programs.

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