‘Wishing for Mommy’ campaign gives grant to Congregation Beth Am security guard battling breast cancer


By Karen Billing

A beloved security guard at Congregation Beth Am who is battling breast cancer received a $500 grant from the Wishing for Mommy campaign on Jan. 17. Deborah “Ebonii” Gibson has worked as a guard at the gates to Beth Am for more than five years, and youngsters in the Gesher preschool nominated her for the grant as she considers all of them her children and they consider her their “safety mommy.”

“Words cannot express how I feel about this group of people, as I’ve been sick and tired you’ve been on my mind,” Gibson said to the children, wiping away a tear. “I’ve never felt more appreciated anywhere than I do at this place. You guys are my family and I love you.”

Wishing for Mommy is a national effort by the martial arts community to award grants to women fighting breast cancer. The 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.

Carmel Valley’s 5-year-old martial arts champion, Channah Zeitung, and Rayna Vallandingham, an Encinitas 11-year-old who holds 11 taekwondo world titles, have become “Wish Warriors,” traveling around the country granting wishes over the last few months along with their teacher Mike Chat, a top martial arts coach and founder of Xtreme Martial Arts.

All three were on hand on Jan. 17 to do martial arts demonstrations for the children and honor Gibson. All wore the pink belts that were sold in studios across the country to support Wishing for Mommy and Gibson cheered as she had one wrapped around her waist.

Chat spoke about all of things that make a great martial artist and a lot of them are things that come naturally to Gibson: being strong, standing tall and having an “I can” attitude.

“We want to support courageous women like Miss Ebonii. She helped protect all of you kids here and was so positive even when she was struggling and not feeling well,” Chat said before Gibson collected hugs from the children and well-wishes from Beth Am staff and members.

Since Gibson has taken leave of her post, the entire school misses her, said

Denise Neifeld, Congregation Beth Am’s preschool director. Gibson is hoping for the best from a surgery planned for next week and has an extra $500 from her “children” to spend in any way she pleases.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said, flashing a grateful grin. “I didn’t expect this.”