By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley’s 5-year-old martial arts champion Channah Zeitung has become a Wish Warrior, helping raise funds and grant wishes for Wishing for Mommy, a national effort by the martial arts community to award $500 grants to women battling breast cancer this holiday season. On Nov. 26, Channah helped grant the wish of Paige Rollins, a Del Mar Heights Elementary School teacher and mother of two who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October. Channah helped present Rollins with the grant at Sr. Master Wacholz’s ATA Black Belt Academy in Rancho Bernardo, where Rollins’ 6-year-old-son Carter and 2-year-old-daughter Paxton are students.
The Wishing for Mommy campaign is supported by the nonprofit Dignity Kids, started by martial arts Master Michelle Lee, the American Taekwondo Association and the H.U. Lee Memorial Foundation. The Wishing for Mommy campaign is trying to grant as many wishes for mothers facing breast cancer as possible.
Channah, who, at age 4, was the youngest child to earn three state martial arts championships, will be granting wishes this holiday season with Rayna Vallandingham, an Encinitas 10-year-old who is an 11-time world champion. Both are students of Mike Chat, a top martial arts coach and founder of Xtreme Martial Arts.
“I want to make mommies smile and get all my friends in martial arts to join in making mommies happy,” said Channah.
One of the ways Wishing for Mommy has raised funds for its grants is by various martial arts schools and organizations across the country joining in on the Pink Belt Revolution. Pink belts were sold and worn in martial arts classes throughout October and November.
It was one of those pink belts that made a huge impact on Rollins’ family and led to her being nominated for a Wishing for Mommy grant. In October, a week after she was diagnosed, Rollins wrote a letter to ATA Black Belt Academy’s Senior Master Wacholz about one very special result of the pink belts.
“I got the call that the lump I felt was an aggressive and severe form of breast cancer,” Rollins wrote. “This is a complete shock to me and my family. Honestly, I can’t begin to explain to you the feeling of physically saying the words ‘I have cancer.’ However, saying those words to your 6 year old is even harder.”
Rollins said she and her husband decided to tell their 6-year-old-son Carter over dinner about her cancer. In an upbeat manner, Carter said he knew all about breast cancer because at ATA they had been wearing pink belts for breast cancer. He told his mother, “I’ll wear a pink belt for you.”
“I can’t even tell you how comforting it felt that he knew about breast cancer,” Rollins wrote. “He wasn’t scared. He had heard of it and it wasn’t scary.”
Rollins said she was very grateful for the gift as it eases some of her anxiety about paying her medical bills that weren’t covered by insurance during the holiday season — she had been losing sleep.
“I cut back in every way that I could think of to pay them and to pay for Christmas gifts for my kids,” Rollins said. “With the [Wishing for Mommy] gift, I’m able to sleep [better] and I can put it toward [essentials].”
Rollins will be undergoing chemotherapy and surgery for a year and will hopefully return to her second grade class at Del Mar Heights in the fall.
Channah and Rayna will be performing and spreading the word about Wishing for Mommy at 20 martial arts schools in California, as well as schools in Arizona, Texas and Florida. The week of Christmas they will be in Orlando, Fla., to grant wishes and perform at a martial arts gala.
To become a Wish Warrior and donate to the cause or nominate a mom facing breast cancer, visit wishingformommy.org