Michaela Rogers, 10, practices a kick at Martial Arts America...

Michaela Rogers, 10, practices a kick at Martial Arts America in Hicksville. (November 8, 2011) Credit: T.C. McCarthy

Young students in the after-school program at Martial Arts America recited, “. . . I will develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and in others" at the command of instructor Rick Hellerer Tuesday afternoon.

Next week students at the Hicksville school will use that self-discipline to help feed the needy.

Students, ages 6 and younger,  will be asked to perform 500 kicks each on Nov. 19 and, students, ages 7 through 13,  will be asked to perform 1,000 each as part of the school’s annual Thanksgiving Basket Brigade. School owner Michael Donohue has set a goal of 50,000 kicks for the event.

Each student is responsible for obtaining sponsorship either by receiving a pledged amount for each kick they do or a flat donation for the whole event. The school has each student make one basket -- filled with non-perishable items needed to make a Thanksgiving dinner -- and asks parent volunteers to come to the school at 300 South Broadway the week before Thanksgiving to help make them. They will be donated to the social services center at Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish In Hicksville.

“We want to teach our students to not only defend themselves, but be better members of the community,” said Donohue, who has been doing the Thanksgiving Basket Brigade for the past 15 years.

Christine Rogers, 39, of Hicksville, was at the school Tuesday while her daughters Michaela, 10, and Fiona, 8, were in a weapons-training class.

“They want to help with anything they can,” said Rogers of her daughters. “And I think self-defense gives them enough self-confidence that they can see the need to help others.”

Rogers was chatting with Maureen Aluotto, 40, of Levittown, about helping to make the baskets. Aluotto enrolled daughter Jennifer Daly, 12, in the school because it was recommended by her doctor for Jennifer’s Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. According to her mom, martial arts training has helped Jennifer become focused, coordinated and confident enough to deal with kids who picked on her in school. Now she’ll use karate to help others through the Thanksgiving Basket Brigade.

“I think it's fantastic,” Aluotto said. “It’s nice because you’re not just here for karate, but you’re doing nice things for the public.”

Photo: Michaela Rogers, 10, practices a kick at Martial Arts America in Hicksville Tuesday.

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