MIDDLEPORT — In a year where we can all use some good news and hope, Saturday was certainly a “Day of Hope”.
The fourth annual Bitanga’s Breakathon was held Saturday in Middleport, raising money for Square One, which serves Meigs, Gallia and Jackson Counties, to open a domestic violence shelter in the area.
More than $62,000 was raised through the event, including fundraising leading up to the actual breaking of the boards. Fundraising efforts included the “Day of Hope” $10 challenge, a cake made by Edible Arts by Samantha which raised over $900 and the sale of t-shirts and other merchandise.
Ashley Durst, Executive Director of Square One, explained, that the Breakathon fundraiser came at a time when Square One had just received word that funding was not going to be received from the state as hoped.
“Before the Pandemic, Square One had been selected to be a part of Senator Peterson’s Capital Budget. The funds that we were set to receive were going to be enough to complete all of the renovations needed to get us open. Unfortunately, once the pandemic hit we were cut from the budget, leaving us with zero funds to begin our project,” explained Durst. “
“The funds that were raised through the Breakathon will allow us to complete the renovations needed to open our shelter. Specifically, the funds raised will pay for updated plumbing, a new sprinkler system and our handicap compliant bathroom,” added Durst.
Breakathon creator Ben Nease explained that a total of 85 competitors took part in the event, breaking boards.
He estimated that around 1,200 boards were donated by Valley Lumber of Middleport for the event.
Top fundraisers for the event were Lillian Gibbs, who raised $3,265; Rylie Wolfe who raised $3,000; and Peyton Richmond, who raised $2,520.
Overall, 11 participants raised more than $2,000, with another nine participants raising more than $1,000, said Nease.
“We can’t express our gratitude enough to everyone at Bitanga’s for their support. When Ben called me back in May to see if we were interested in being this year’s recipient, he explained that because of the pandemic, he wasn’t sure how much they would be able to raise, if any. We didn’t care, we were just excited to be selected. This was an opportunity to get our name out in the different counties that we serve. A chance to reach more victims and survivors,” explained Durst.
”The work that Ben is doing at Bitanga’s is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Since 2016 Bitanga’s has raised $127,916! He isn’t just teaching Martial Arts there. He’s teaching his students about the importance of giving back to the community. He is truly breaking barriers with his role as Sensei,” concluded Durst.
The first two years, funds from the event went to the Meigs County Council on Aging for work at the Blakeslee Center, with the 2019 event titled “Save the Music” benefiting the music programs at Wahama, Southern and Meigs.
While the 2020 event has just concluded, Nease said that planning is underway for the 5th annual Bitanga’s Breakathon to be held in 2021. Although the exact beneficiary has not been finalized, Nease said they are hoping to have it be something that revolves around offering a free health service to kids in Meigs County.
Overall, he said the long term goal is to have the event raise $100,000 annually for the beneficiary of the funding.
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Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.