TAMPA — With each scrappy victory that the Blevins family racks up on the wrestling mat, another child gets a little closer to their wish coming true.
Six-year-old Ethan Blevins and his 9-year-old sister Arianna are using their passion for jiu jitsu to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The sibling coach-wrestler duo have only been at it for a few weeks (two matches) but have already raised $110 for the foundation by taking pledges for each victory that Ethan earns during sanctioned events. What started as an idea that Arianna had after meeting her elementary school teacher's assistant, a current "wish kid," is turning into full time work for the pair as they collect pledges.
"We just want to help other kids have their wish come true before something bad happens to them," Arianna Blevins said. "It's been fun getting people to pledge because we love these events anyways and now we get to do something for other kids while we do it."
The kids' father, Daniel Blevins, owns Gator MMA in New Port Richey and has helped his children every step of the way in organizing the work with the foundation. Now, the training center owner says he intends to obtain a 501(c)3 license to allow his business to work on a donation basis.
"We are always looking for ways to help other people, it's just something that we believe in," Daniel Blevins said. "I had a friend who had done things with the Make-A-Wish foundation and he put me in contact with someone to help the kids set what they are doing up. With Gator MMA we want to get a nonprofit license because we have a lot of people who can't pay but want to learn about the sport. We want to be able to do it on a donation basis."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation receives a number of donations every year, but usually it's an organization or an entire league doing the fundraising. MAWF's Development and Events Manager Heather Ainsworth sees the Blevins as a powerhouse duo on the mat and believes they will eventually be just as good at raising funds.
"I had heard about what they wanted to do and went to meet them, but I was expecting them to be like 10 or 12 when I saw all the things Ethan had won," Ainsworth said. "These two little kids just blew me away. We have lots of schools that participate in wish kids but these kids are a bit special because it's just them. They're not doing this because someone else has told them to, they're just doing because they want to."
Last Saturday, Ethan Blevins competed in the North American Grappling Association's Jiu Jitsu Tampa Championship held at the University of South Florida. Blevins took the championship in the 49-pound weight class.