Chris Canning Award Nominations Due June 1

April 13, 2012, 12:18 p.m. (ET)

This year's presentation of the Chris Canning Award of Excellence takes place in Dallas, Texas. It was adopted in conjunction with the USAT National Awards program in 2005 and was in tribute to Christopher James Canning, who was an accomplished martial artist and a world class human being who passed away on June 30, 2001, at the age of 15 years old. This year's presentation will mark the 7th time an outstanding and internationally acclaimed martial artist has been honored with the award. In addition to the martial arts achievement, these individuals have to meet the other standards of the award: accomplishment of academic excellence, giving unselfishly to others, and demonstrating the personal attributes of a first-class individual. The Chris Canning Award and its standards of excellence were founded in the accomplishments of its namesake, what he represented in and out of the martial arts, and his approach to meeting life's challenges, with a resolve to prevail, while maintaining honor and respect for those he was involved with each day.

Chris excelled in all aspects of his life and the martial arts. In school, he was an honor student, in the choir, band, and heavily involved in athletics, playing football, basketball and baseball as a starter and captain.  He carried his energy into the field of music playing classical piano, guitar, and winning a state championship playing drums. In his community, Chris helped the homeless by collecting food and clothing, helped deliver Meals on Wheels to those restricted to their home, and was involved with many community projects to help others. His love of animals was demonstrated by helping at an animal shelter, caring for and finding homes for abandoned animals and bringing strays to the shelter for future placement. His friendship was sincere. He protected weaker kids from the “bullies” at school, and came to the aid of those feeling depressed. Humor was his vehicle to enrich the lives of those he was involved with each day. His greatest satisfaction came from being there when needed and making a difference. In the Martial Arts, he was a member of 11 different state teams, won 15 state and 3 national titles, and was an AAU Taekwondo “All American”. In addition, he was a member of the 1999 U.S. Elite Team and invited by U.S. National Team Coach Han Won Lee to the 2001 U.S. Gold Team Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center. Finally, he was selected by the United States National Taekwondo Federation as “Illinois Athlete and Student of the Year” and named “Athlete of the Week” five times in three different cities in central Illinois.

A Chris Canning Foundation has been established, with 501c 3 status, to help support the recognition program. Any individual or corporation wishing to make a contribution to the Foundation and help sustain the award's program, please mail a contribution to Chris Canning Foundation, PO Box 107, Maroa, Illinois, 61756.

One of the highest honors given in Chris’ memory was the opportunity to recognize other outstanding martial artists who are also world class human beings. This honor is represented by the presentation of the Chris Canning Award of Excellence each year at the U.S. National Championships. Should you know of an outstanding young martial artist deserving of such an honor and recognition, please submit their information to USA Taekwondo in care of Bill Kellick, Director of Communications ( on or before 6/1/12. The information sent should include documented academic achievement, a martial arts resume, indicating years of training, rank, medal placements at state, national and international competitions, national and international teams, letters of recommendation indicating how they have given back to their community through project work or activities and describing the personal attributes of the candidate. A candidate must be 14-22 years old ( both included), be an active member of USA Taekwondo for at least one year, be a competitor at the 2012 U.S. National Championships, be in attendance at the Opening Ceremonies and be a first degree black belt or higher. The person making the submittal should include all their contact information in case a clarification is necessary on information sent in. The official Chris Canning Award of Excellence nomination form is linked at the bottom of this article.

From the submittals received this year, there will be a number of martial artists selected as finalists and they will be announced prior to the event. In addition, they will be presented an award plaque indicating their status as a finalist during the opening ceremonies. Immediately following those awards, the winner will be announced and presented the Chris Canning Award of Excellence Trophy and the $1,000 scholarship. The winner will become the 8th Ambassador of the Award, providing yet another role model to be emulated as part of the living legacy. Previous winners include Aimee Callison in 2005, Maia Eubanks in 2006, Jermaine James in 2007, Paige McPherson in 2008, Matt Dunlap in 2009, Olie Burton in 2010 and Haley Kong in 2011.