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Waltham martial arts academy raises thousands for Children’s Hospital Boston

Published: November 16, 2012
Section: Features


With Reggie Perry blasting Rihanna’s “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” from the stereo system inside his Waltham Martial Arts Academy, and his wife repeatedly kicking the wavemaster for 10 minutes to gain pledge donations, their four-year-old son Kobe, skipping around the room in his t-shirt and blue jeans, paused at the doorway to observe the scene.

The scene inside his academy, with students and instructors of all ages kickboxing at the Hope for a Heart fundraiser, aiming to raise $3,000 for the Cardiology Department at Children’s Hospital Boston, left Reggie Perry smiling and filled with gratitude on Nov. 3. When in the summer of 2009 at 11 months old, Kobe Perry contracted myocarditis, a viral infection attacking the heart that can lead to symptoms of heart failure if left untreated, he endured three and a half years of treatments, medications, visits and a 45-day stay at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Now, his heart has fully recovered.

“He came within 30 minutes of knocking on death’s door,” Reggie Perry said. “Through the modern miracle of medicine, Children’s Hospital saved his life.”

Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, infects several thousand Americans annually, but exact numbers are difficult to calculate because some people present no symptoms, according to WedMd.com. Combined, myocarditis and cardiomyopathy are the leading causes of heart transplants in the United States.

With the treatment Kobe received from a hospital team led by cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Blume, his father referenced “the grace of God and prayer” to describe the quality of care.

“Heaven on earth is the phrase I’d stick to. I don’t know where we’d be without them. I probably would be living a very different reality,” Perry said.

A Lance Armstrong poster with the words, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever,” hung on the back wall as Chris Kokovidis, an instructor at the academy, approached the nine-minute mark in his kicking. The grimace on his face tightening, Kokovidis accelerated his feet, switching between left and right, to strike the wavemaster at a quicker pace, reaching 1,057 kicks in 10 minutes for his final tally.

After catching his breath, removing the tightly wrapped white tape and wiping away the blood on his feet, Kokovidis reflected on the spirit of the fundraiser, saying, “It’s a miracle that he [Kobe] got through this.”

Perry said he had raised nearly $3,800 one day after the fundraiser and anticipated collecting more donations. Total kicks tallied 15,110, with some donors pledging money based on the number of kicks in the 10-minute intervals.

Describing his son as 100 percent recovered and healthy now, Perry, in between switching soundtracks, chatted with other students, friends and parents who watched the kickboxing in the blue-matted room from an open booth inside the Beaver Street studio.

Kaitlyn Cevrone, a student at the academy, said the motivation for each kick into the wavemaster came from recognizing how many kids today who are in need of support and high quality care, like Kobe.

“There’s still a lot of kids out there that need heart transplants, that need help, so we’re doing it for them,” she said.

Perry has led several other fundraisers and charitable causes, through martial arts, in his career. Black belt candidates under his leadership have participated in the Thanksgiving Turkey Brigade, where candidates organize a food drive for needy families in the Waltham and Metro West Boston area.

A photographer, in between taking photos, stopped to shout words of encouragement and advice to Kokovidis and other students entering the fatigued and final minutes of their 10-minute challenge.

Perry, surveying the intensity and enthusiasm in the room, smiled as Kobe ran from door to door, peeking around the corners, awed by the activity around him.