Friday, January 2, 2015

Dear Friends of JamminBJJ and Give the Gift of a Gi,

The start of a new year provides us an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by – to celebrate our successes and learn from our challenges.

JamminBJJ has much to reflect on from 2014, many people to thank, and more projects on the horizon. This is a bit long, but we got a lot done!

Our biggest undertaking in 2014 was bringing Top Brother athlete, Luciano Mariano, to the US from Japeri, RDJ, Brazil to compete at the World Championships. Luciano is a blue belt, double-arm amputee and fierce BJJ fighter. [There are other blog stories about Luciano and the details of this endeavor] Luciano’s life-changing experience was made possible through the assistance of many people and organizations; we received a travel grant from The Challenged Athlete Foundation; a new gi, gear, housing and tournament registration provided by Kerstin Pakter and Hyperfly; training and generous support from coach James Foster, Foster Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (FBJJ), and Giva Santana, Lotus Club Irvine; and coaching, training and supervision by coach Jean Carlos Freitas. Javier Villalpando at Revolver MMA designed an impressive and popular commemorative tee-shirt. We would also like to thank Gracie Magazine, BJJ Legends magazine and BJJPaperweight for the wonderful interviews, stories and publicity about Luciano’s trip.

Since we began in October 2012, JamminBJJ has delivered over 1500 pounds of donated gis to Brazilian athletes of all ages who have limited resources. While a few of these gis have made their way to Brazil via the postal service, the majority have been taken to Brazil by myself, teammates (Ian Wood, FBJJ) and athletes who have traveled to the US to compete and who are associated with favela gyms we have served.  One of the successes of 2014 was the fine-tuning of this distribution network. Jean Carlos Freitas deserves an extra shout-out here as our international liaison and chief translator. There are still glitches to work out and unreliable communication is a big hindrance. Most athletes traveling from Brazil do not have cell phone or internet access in the US.

2014 brought us a steady flow of gi donations and some new collaborations. FBJJ, Straight Blast Gym Seattle, Madeline Holden and Kris Shaw were all active donor-collectors of gis. We also continued to receive gis in the mail from all over the US. For those of you who use a mail service or don’t include a return address – Thank you – your donations are appreciated and we would send a card to you if we could. One of largest and most surprising donations of gis came in October from Submission Fight Co. They donated 100 new gis and most of them are already in Brazil. The gyms that received these gis were overwhelmed and very thankful. Most of the recipients never owned a gi, let alone a new one.  There are photos and video from athletes and coaches who benefited on the JamminBJJ website and Facebook page.

In November DeuS Fight Co assisted us in sponsoring five Top Brother athletes with limitations to participate in the CBPJJ (para-jiu-jitsu) tournament in Sao Paulo. One of these athletes was Luciano – who medaled in his division and the open [photos at and on Facebook]. DeuS Fight wrote a lovely and informative blog story about this collaboration. You can find it at

What’s in store for 2015? Of course we will continue to collect and distribute gi donations and sponsor young athletes in Brazil and the US to compete. We hope to continue providing monetary contributions that make food and simple gifts available to children at Easter and Christmas in Brazil. We are always open to new ideas and collaborations – talk to us.

I have to personally acknowledge and thank a gentleman, Abdulkader Ahmed for a gift that will make a tremendous positive impact on my ability to do the work of JamminBJJ this year. I met Abdulkader in 2013 at the United Airlines ticket counter when my son, Carson, and I were headed to Brazil with a cart full of large bags full of donated gis. Abdulkader asked what we were up to and I shared with him a flyer about Give the Gift of a Gi and we talked about JamminBJJ’s mission. Abdulkader waived our baggage fees which would have been several hundred dollars. An angel at check-in, that could have been the end of it, but he contacted me through the JamminBJJ website and kept in touch, always interested in the work we were doing. Starting January 1st, 2015, Abdulkader added me to his “friends and family” benefit to fly United so that I can fly virtually free – anywhere. I’m still overwhelmed at this generous gesture.  He is a true example of the kindness that exists in all people if we just take the time to smile, share and believe in the positive energy that is available to all of us.

I’ll close by telling you of my current project. This year I am the advisor of the Interact Club at Kentwood High School where I teach. Interact is the high school version of Rotary International, the largest service organization in the world. Throughout the year the students work on a community and an international service project. As their international project, my students have taken on the reformation of an abandoned building that has become the gymnasium/community center for a team assisted by JamminBJJ in Campo Grande, RDJ. 250+ children a week find their way through this building by participating in various activities, including BJJ. This abandoned building currently has no bathrooms, just alcoves of broken pipes and garbage, faulty wiring that hangs from the walls, a leaky roof and only well-worn puzzle mats to sit on. The people of the neighborhood are ready to provide endless hours of labor (most are unemployed), but there are no financial resources to make the needed improvements. KW Interact has already concluded one successful fundraiser and has another planned for this January! I hope to connect with a Rotary Club close to Campo Grande and pursue cost-effective ways to get the building materials. Now that I can travel easily to Brazil, I plan to go once school is out and bring the raised monies and help with some of the rebuilding.

Great thanks as well to my helpers who remain mostly behind the scenes – Mike Baltierra,  webmaster extraordinaire and Rick Geist, post-booster and cheerleader.

I went to the Bay Area for the holidays to see my family. My parents are both healthy and active. My dad, who turned 78, took me out for a four mile run the day I arrived. My mom does yoga, walks and paints every week along the Peninsula with a group of other artists. My youngest son will graduate from high school this year and my husband will retire. To keep myself together I plan to take things one day, one project, at a time. Reflecting on a year gone by reminds us to treasure every moment with friends and family because time goes by too fast. I am also reminded to constantly look into my heart and focus on what is most important. Thank you Carly for the spirit and energy to live your legacy.