Louis Toledo, Maplewood dad of five and owner of Maplewood Karate grew up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. The oldest of six children, Louis’ family did not have the money for him to take karate lessons, but a local police officer made it possible for the neighborhood kids to practice. It kept the kids off the street and taught Louis that giving back was the key to life.
He started Maplewood Karate to offer free community lessons for children ages 8 and up in Maplewood and South Orange. That’s right–free. The only fee required is for the uniform and belts. Lessons are available three times a week for each age group and a Saturday class is open to both age groups to train together. The Maplewood Recreation Department provides the space (Civic House in Memorial Park) for classes, which make it possible for Louis and staff to offer the free classes. The students do have to pay back though. In order to advance to the next level belt, students also have to volunteer their time or donate to a cause. Louis feels it’s an important way to teach them to pay it forward.
In our phone conversation, Louis told me that while his intent was to help local kids, like he was helped, it has turned into a family thing, “Out of our 60 students, maybe only two are coming in alone. The rest are practicing with their parents or siblings.” Louis is also proud that about half of the 60 students are females, which he says is something you don’t see in many karate schools.
This Saturday, July 17, Maplewood Karate will celebrate its one year anniversary serving the Maplewood and South Orange communities with a Family Picnic. Put together by parent volunteers, the picnic will have delicious food, face painting for kids, music by a DJ, contests and an awards ceremony.
Maplewood Karate Family Picnic Anniversary Celebration
Who: All ages.
What: A family picnic to celebrate Maplewood Karate’s one year anniversary.
Where: Civic House, Memorial Park, Valley Street between Oakland Road & Baker Street, Maplewood, NJ.
When: Saturday, July 17 from 12 pm – 4 pm.