Owen Ziebell, a Brookfield 5-year-old recovering from severe brain damage, was the center of attention Saturday at Karate America, where local families gathered to learn how to break boards and contribute to Owen's therapy fund.
Hundreds of visitors filled the two-room space in the Ruby Isle Shopping Center Saturday. They bought about 850 boards, which Karate America instructors taught them to break in front of the crowd in exchange for a donation for Owen's family. Karate America had collected more than $6,000 as of Monday, with money still coming in.
"It really, really means a lot to see everyone come together to support Owen and help us continue his therapy so he can keep being the Owen that we know and love," Owen's mother, Alison Ziebell said.
Owen suffered a grade-four brain bleed after he was born prematurely, which left him with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He gets physical, occupational, and speech therapy about three times a week.
But the focus of the event Saturday was on Owen's strengths. He has been practicing karate at the studio for about six months, and broke four boards in front his family, friends and instructors.
"He's working really hard to gain strength in his body and his mind," Owen's instructor, Kyle Mealy, said.
Mealy broke through five bricks with his arm Saturday, with one brick for every $500 that had been raised by students, as Owen and his family watched from atop a tower of mats.
Alison has been fighting her own health battles, going through radiation therapy, and preparing to begin chemotherapy to combat a brain tumor. She said her family has felt supported through it all.
"It's been really neat to have the community support for both myself and Owen," Alison said. "It's been really, really nice."
Smiles, high-fives and applause dominated the studio Saturday, which Mealy said is always the goal.
"We end every class with the words, 'might for right,'" Mealy said. "It means our punches, our kicks, all the techniques you're seeing, are for something good. And this is about as good as it gets."
Karate America will continue accepting donations for Owen's family on its website, mykarateamerica.com, through Sunday. After that, it will collect donations by phone at (262) 789-5437 or in person at 2205 N. Calhoun Road.
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