NEW PORT RICHEY — With each kick, Rafael Rodriguez's Trinity Tae Kwon Do students performed a good deed.
The school partnered with the 501st Legion, a traveling group of actors dressed as Star Wars characters who entertain at charity events, to raise money for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
"This year we want to surpass last year's total of $5,000 raised for the hospital," Rodriguez said. "The kids have one minute to do as many kicks as they can on a bag, and people sponsor them per kick. We have a demonstration team that has been working on a routine for over two months that they'll perform today. It's a really fun day for the kids and for the parents to see their kids working so hard for charity."
The fundraising efforts weren't limited to sponsoring one of the 50 participants. Coming into the Oct. 27 event, the school had already raised $3,000 through online donations the students collected from friends, families and other sources.
Maria Latore and her 14-year-old daughter, Veronica, already passed their previous year's total by raising $525 before the event ever started.
"We went around our apartment complex, posted on Facebook every day, talked to friends and family members and I even got money from people at my work," Maria Latore said. "It's a great thing for the kids to do and it makes giving back a positive experience."
While the school was still receiving donations Thursday, Rodriguez said they expect to collect about $6,000. He developed the fundraiser last year to get the kids involved in charity work. He had seen other schools do kick-a-thons and knew it was a better way of raising money than board-breaking demonstrations and other events.
"St. Jude contacts the schools and you can do a number of options for a fundraiser, but this is the most effective way that I've seen," Rodriguez said. "We had a really good event last year, and one of the biggest things for all of us was the kids from St. Jude got together and made a YouTube video of themselves playing Christmas bells, so everyone got to see who they were helping."
Participants like 15-year-old Chandler Hackbarth enjoy the event for the festivities that go along with it and see it as a chance to showcase what they can do. Last year, Hackbarth raised $35, but he was confident he would do better this year.
"I love doing demonstrations because it's a chance to entertain people," Hackbarth said. "Last year I did okay as far as the fundraiser goes, but I'm hoping to raise a lot more this year. It's an opportunity to do something for someone else and they're kids just like us."