Kickathon helps raise money for Merrimack Public Library’s children’s room

MERRIMACK – Merrimack Karate has been an institution in town for almost 20 years, home in its Daniel Webster Highway location since 1996.

Started by owners and instructors Rick Giroux and Linda Ryan, the family business works to instill a love for karate in residents of all ages –
not only the sporty, physical fitness side of the art, but the foundation of self-esteem, strength of character, focus and hard work at the core of karate training.

About 10 years ago, Giroux and Ryan wanted to add another life skill into their instruction: giving back. They started an annual Kickathon, during which students put their feet into action on behalf of a local charity or nonprofit. Over the years, students have kicked for Teen Challenge, the food pantry, Kids Kove and Care Net New Hampshire.

You may have noticed that they have focused on one particular nonprofit for the last three years: the Merrimack Public Library.

“We wanted to find an organization that was Merrimack-based,” Ryan said.

To the school’s owners, the library is the organization that “benefits the most people in town.”

The library’s relationship with Merrimack Karate has been ongoing for more than 10 years, as both host popular summer reading challenges. To encourage readers and new students, the school has offered free intro classes to those who complete the library’s challenge. These classes are generally restricted to new students, however. The Kickathon provides a way for current kickers to show support for the library, as well.

This support meant wonderful things for the Youth Services Department at the library, most noticeably in the new furnishings the funds from the 2012 Kickathon provided.

The town wanted more community areas in the building, and Director Yvette Couser, then the children’s librarian, thought a cozy reading nook in the children’s room would round out that request nicely. The Kickathon funds enabled the purchase of a colorful jungle carpet and kid-size sofas and chairs that now grace the entryway of the children’s room.

The Kickathon also provided funds for reading materials otherwise out of the library’s means, such as “read-along kits” that allow struggling readers to read a print book while listening to the audio narration.

2013 and 2014 Kickathon funds brought in new and exciting nonfiction reads – often the preferred book of choice for picky boy readers –
as well as shelving for the library’s recently added comics collection.

And for the third year in a row, the Kickathon funds have made an extra-special event possible during the annual National Library Week celebration: costumed character visits from favorite book characters such as SkippyJon Jones, Pete the Cat, and this year, the Cat in the Hat.

Now it’s time for the 2015 Kickathon, which will be held in early May. The library has another big goal in mind to shape renovations in the children’s room: the picture book section. The picture books are by far one of the most popular areas in the library, but its current setup isn’t conducive to easy or fun browsing. The collection is overgrowing its shelves, and said shelves are overcrowding the room, making it tough for people to browse the lower shelves and making navigation nearly impossible if you require a wheelchair or walker.

In the last year, the children’s room has made several moves toward a more open and inspiring space for local kids, most recently the move of its chapter books to the south side of the room, which has made the modest space seem much larger.

To contribute toward this endeavor, you’re in luck: Fundraising for the Kickathon is in full swing, and this year the Friends of the Merrimack Public Library are working in partnership with Merrimack Karate to make donating as easy as possible.

Here’s how the Kickathon works: Merrimack Karate students need sponsors to match money to how many kicks they can complete in a minute (and believe it or not, some kids reach more than 100 kicks in that short time). Sponsors can donate money per kick or donate a flat-rate contribution.

The students and karate school are collecting funds, but this year the Friends of MPL are, as well. You can make a donation in the library on your next visit, or you can visit merrimack
library.org/friends.

Are you interested in enrolling yourself or a family member as a new student at the karate school? Then make a donation of $5 or more and you’ll receive two free weeks of classes courtesy of Merrimack Karate.

For more information about how you can contribute to the Kickathon and improve upon the children’s room, please call Liz Gotauco, head of youth services, at 424-5021, ext. 110.