Karate teacher volunteers his talent for Chilean children
What started as a simple demonstration in Lake Arrowhead for abused children has turned into a decade of helping many more children for one Costa Mesa man.
Bob White is among a group heading to Chile this week to demonstrate Kenpo karate and donate the first installment of $10,000 to start a camp for Royal Family Kids, which helps children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected.
Cox Communications named Santa Ana-based RFK its top nonprofit in 2011, and White has been assisting the group for nearly a decade.
He and his wife, Barbara — who celebrated their nine-year anniversary last week — also want to help the Chilean people create their own fundraisers and tournaments like the annual one he runs, the Bob White Invitational. In its seven years, the invitational, which is now at Huntington Beach High School and the SeaCliff Country Club, has raised $311,000 for RFK.
“I have this vision and a prayer,” White said. “Our goal is to get the Chilean Kenpo community to be involved at the same level as we are.”
The group plans to visit Santiago, Tomé and Rancagua. While in Santiago, they will give a formal presentation at La Moneda — the Chilean equivalent of the White House — that first lady Cecilia Morel will attend. They hope President Sebastián Piñera will be there too.
“I think with our involvement now with the government, with the president or the first lady involved, I think it gives us a much greater opportunity to get more recognition,” white said.
White, 63, a Garden Grove native, is a ninth-degree black belt. Since 1979 he has run Bob White’s Karate Studio on Victoria Street in Costa Mesa, where he’s lived for 30 years. He was even involved in “The Karate Kid” and “The Karate Kid, Part III.”
But he doesn’t want to go up a belt degree.
“I will never go any higher … I don’t want to be a 10th degree because I’m still a student,” he said. “I want to keep on working and learning. I enjoy that process.
“I’m on this journey of trying to improve.”
Some 20,000 students have been through White’s studio doors throughout the years. Elements from John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success are painted on the walls. There are also pictures of students and people like Ed Parker, who, in addition to being White’s teacher, has the distinction of being Elvis Presley’s.
White has been visiting Chile for the past 15 years. He loves how appreciative the people are there.
“Because Chile is a poorer country economically, I think that they’re really grateful when you come over,” he said.
White said one man even came from Chile’s southern region — a 14-hour trip, one way — just for a two-hour seminar.
“That’s the quest for knowledge,” he said. “I really admire that.”
He added, “We’ve had kids cry because they’ve had the opportunity to come up and take a class.”
Barbara White said RFK’s volunteer-run camps are themed, and that among the many activities is an “everyone’s birthday.” The moment is special for the kids, some of whom have never had a birthday party, don’t know their birthday and are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I see these kids returning to camp year after year,” she said. “It’s pretty emotional for the last year at camp. A lot of times, the kids will come back to be volunteers.”
In the end, White said their efforts are really about helping children, a “staggering” amount of whom in Chile have been subject to abuse or neglect.
“It’s not based on anybody looking for a higher office,” he said. “Nobody has an individual gain. No one’s lining their pockets. It’s just a good thing to help children.”