Taekwondo was a saving grace for Ben Woycik.
When his parents’ marriage ended unexpectedly in 2011, it made for some tough times for the Langley family.
“We were all kind of hurting. It was a bad end to a 14-year marriage,” admitted his mom, Sherri-Lee Woycik.
“They were both wounded. There was a lot of hurt all around.”
Ben was six and his sister Hannah was 10 when the parents divorced.
The kids were with their mom at the Canada Day celebrations in Langley when they saw a taekwondo demonstration at one of the booths.
With her kids interested, Woycik signed them both up.
“I saw my son just blossom; he had just been an angry, unhappy kid before that,” she explained.
“He got into taekwondo and found something that resonated with him. He couldn’t get enough of it, he just wanted to be there every day.”
But as a self-employed single mother, money can be tight, especially with the father not in the their lives.
“They lost so many things over the end of the marriage — I had to sell the home they grew up in — we had to move,” she explained.
“As much as I hate to say it, it is the extracurricular things that get cut. I am not going to cut the grocery bill or not pay my rent.”
But thanks to the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program, Ben was able to continue.
Jumpstart is a program dedicated to removing financial barriers so kids across Canada have the opportunity to get off the sidelines and into the game.
The program assists with the costs associated with registration, equipment and other related expenses and is for anyone between the ages of four and 18.
Since it began in 2005, it has helped more than 1 million kids.
Woycik had signed Ben up for Big Brothers Big Sisters Langley.
And it was through them, she first heard about the Jumpstart program.
Hannah was not part of BBBS so she was not eligible for the Jumpstart funding.
At first, she was reluctant, thinking there must be others in more dire need of the financial help.
But as the expenses continued to rise, she was talked into applying for the funding.
“(The email) always seemed to show up in my inbox that I could apply at just the right time when I would have been looking at what would I have had to cut in order to get by,” she said.
He has received the funding three times.
One of the times, the money was used to enroll him in a taekwondo camp over spring break, something he otherwise would not have been able to do.
“It just takes a little bit pressure off me for a little bit of time and allows him to continue (in the sport),” Woycik said.
“The funding has been amazing and to see him develop such a strong passion for such an important, healthy activity that is a lifestyle is amazing to me. It is so much more than I thought when we started in taekwondo.”
This Saturday (May 28) on National Jumpstart Day, both Ben, now 11, and Hannah, 16, will test for their black belts.
They attend Chang’s Taekwondo Martial Arts School in Cloverdale.
“I’m looking forward to being able to say I’m a black belt because I feel proud of all the hard work I’ve done,” he wrote in an essay which was part of his black belt testing process.
“I will feel so happy to be a black belt and good about how hard I’ve worked to get here.
“Through taekwondo, I’ve discovered something that I am good at, that I love doing and that I can see doing for (the rest of) my life.”
Ben is also part of the leadership team at Chang’s and is training to be an instructor.
Woycik also credits BBBS Langley for playing a huge role in Ben’s development.
“It really has become so important for him, he just loves it,” she said.
“They have so much in common and have so much fun together. It is nice to see him having an adult male role model that he looks up to and is bonding with because he doesn’t have much of that in life.”