Every year, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center posts a "wish list" on their web site of items for local veterans. When Kyle Mealy saw this list, he knew that with the help of his organization, KarateAmerica Brookfield, Pewaukee and Menomonee Falls, they could cross off most of these items.
"I was deeply moved by the items that our veterans were wishing for: things like socks and underwear," says Mealy. "Not what you’d think would be on a ‘wish list.’"
Mealy, who works in marketing for the company, and Jeff Quirk, the facility owner who was also Mealy’s first karate teacher and issued him a black belt at the age of 10, had been knocking around ideas to strengthen their community.
"Since the beginning of the year, we were on the hunt to do something extra that resonated with purpose and values," says Mealy. "We knew this was it."
It February, KarateAmerica held three "Break-a-Board" fundraisers at their locations in Brookfield, Pewaukee and Menomonee Falls. The goal was to teach as many people as possible to get over their fears by showing them how to break boards and, in the process, raising enough money to fulfill the VA’s wish list.
"We thought teaching people to do something they feared, like breaking a board, was a way to honor the courage of the veterans who are doing some of most courageous work ever," says Mealy.
Hundreds of people showed up to break a board for $10 and KarateAmerica surpassed their $15,000 goal by collecting $19,000 during the three fundraisers.
On Thursday, after a couple of months of coordinating, representatives from KarateAmerica went to Target to purchase every item on the wish list. They bought everything from shoes to beanbag toss games to mattress covers.
"The receipt was literally 25 feet long," says Mealy.
Mealy says he has already heard from other karate organizations that want to do similar events and he plans to do it again next year.
"How cool would it be if the wish list could not only include things they need but things they want?" says Mealy. "And for us, all it means is planning a really, really fun event."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.