These kids are kicking butt!
“What did you feel like when you were doing this today?" I asked one of the children. "Strong!” she replied.
It's a feeling they don't experience very often. All of them are battling cancer in the Children's Hospital at Montefiore.
“We have has some patients that have been going through serious illnesses and sometimes even coming towards the end of their life," Meghan Kelly, director of Child Life Programs, said.
“[When I breathe out, I feel] like superpowers that I have,” Rosemaria, an eight-year-old child, smiled.
Bringing a brightness to the little ones' day is Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, aka 'Rabbi G.'
“We explain to the children their real power is in their mind, their soul, and their spirit," Rabbi G explained. "Letting the children feel that spirit, giving them that power, breaking through the darkness, changes everything for the child.”
A change made possible through karate and the nonprofit, Kids Kicking Cancer.
“When did you first get into karate?" I asked Rabbi G. "Believe it or not, I actually grew up in the Bronx, and it’s hard to imagine but I wasn’t tall as a kid and so learning self-defense really was helpful," he said.
It was a personal tragedy though that brought him into the medical world. More than 30 years ago, his first daughter, Sara, passed away from leukemia.
“Our little daughter was an amazing superhero, who at two years old would tell the doctors in the hospital, no medication today please, or tell the five-year-old kids in the clinic, don’t cry,” he remembered.
After getting involved with a pediatric oncology camp, Rabbi G realized how much this could help so many around the world.
“It takes five minutes to make these kids laugh and they just become children again,” he smiled.
“It really helps you when you’re mad and it helps you with your breathing,” J-lyn, one of the children, explained.
“It makes me feel better because of the breathing,” another child said.
"We’ve seen great outcomes from it, the kids learn skills for dealing with some of their challenges while they’re in the hospital, they learn how to take control of it," Kelly said.
These kids were kind enough to let me join in on the lesson, and boy they weren't shy about showing off their moves.
“Did you think I was a little annoying?" I asked one of the children. "Yes," she laughed.
“Why’d you push me?" I asked J-lyn. "Because you were in my way," she smiled.
“I want a black belt, do you think I deserve a black belt?" I asked the kids. "No!”
Today is just one day of a lifelong fight these kids will face, and they know the skills learned here will them push through it all.
“They’ve taught me that optimism means that it doesn’t have to be great, we can still find the greatness in ourselves,” Rabbi G said.
"Sometimes karate can help you feel better,” one of the kids smiled.
Rabbi G is also sharing all of the incredible lessons he's learned from these kids over the years in his book, "A Perfect God Created An Imperfect World Perfectly: 30 Life Lessons from Kids Kicking Cancer."
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi