Making A Global Impact With Donated Taekwondo Equipment

By Bill Kellick | April 16, 2018, 11:41 a.m. (ET)

A training visit to the Ivory Coast last December lit a spark in a North Carolina teenager, resulting in a massive amount of equipment being donated for her less-fortunate African taekwondo comrades.

Thirteen-year-old Avery Pardue was so moved by the lack of adequate training equipment she witnessed during her time with the Ivory Coast national team that she left all her gear she brought with her and vowed to her mother, Lauren, to find a way to donate more items once they returned home. They set up a donation box at their dojang, WOW Taekwondo in Waxhaw, N.C., and spread the word of their quest through Facebook.

“The response was amazing,” said Lauren. “People donated from other schools and we got so much stuff. It’s nice to think about teenagers thinking globally to help others.”

It all started when Master Attada Tadjou, technical director and Olympic coach for the Ivory Coast Taekwondo Federation, came to North Carolina in early 2017 to give seminars and training advice to students prior to the U.S. Open. Grandmaster Missy Cann, who is in partnership with Master Tadjou to help Carolina students reach their taekwondo goals, helped coordinate his visit.

When the opportunity arose late last year to train with Master Tadjou in the Ivory Coast, as well as attend the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final and Team Championships, Avery and Lauren jumped at the chance. They spent a week training with the Ivory Coast national team and then took in the action of the Grand Prix where they met athletes from all over the world including Olympians Paige McPherson, Jade Jones and Aaron Cook.

“It was such a good experience because I got to train with great athletes, but I also got to see how lucky we are in the USA,” said Avery, a 2nd degree cadet black belt. “We have so many opportunities here, and to see the Africans train with no gear, no air conditioning and huge obstacles, it was really enlightening. After meeting so many wonderful people that took the time to help me train and take care of us, we had to find a way to give back.”

Avery also got to train with world champion Ruth Gbagbi (pictured at left with Avery) who is one of Master Tadjou’s students.

“Master Tadjou provides such great training for his students,” added Lauren. “All of the athletes were exceptional because they want to be successful so badly, even if they don’t have the same opportunities to travel and train like our kids do. It really was a testament to Master Tadjou’s training, to be able to achieve that level of elite athlete in challenging circumstances is amazing.”

With the overwhelming response to the equipment drive from generous individuals and clubs, the Pardues are now challenged with getting the donations to the Ivory Coast. They have contacted a gentleman in Philadelphia who has agreed to include the equipment in his freight container making the journey across the ocean. Lauren and Avery will make the nine-hour drive to Pennsylvania in May to deliver the donated equipment. Once in Africa, the gear will be distributed to the taekwondo schools for the children that need it.

“The school we saw had students that struggled to get there to train,” Lauren added. “They had only uniforms and belts…no kicking pads, no targets, no sparring equipment at all. With our donated gear they will be able to train like our kids in the USA. Hopefully, we’ll get to make another trip there to see where the donations went and how they are making a difference.”

“I want to thank the Pardues for their initiative to have thought of us and help many children in my country who practice taekwondo,” said Master Tadjou. “With this equipment we can develop a home advantage for the welfare of the children and their parents. Thanks to all who have contributed.”

Beyond this initial effort, the Pardues are looking to make their donation drive a semi-annual occurrence and expand to local and regional tournaments to reach a larger area. Avery and her friends are excited because it’s an easy way to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

“Everyone we know has so much stuff they have outgrown or don’t use anymore,” says Lauren. “As a mom and daughter in the sport, we have really enjoyed working on this together and can’t wait to see all of this gear out of my den and on its way to Africa. It’s really been the trip that keeps on giving…to us and to others.”

If you or your club would like to donate to the Pardue’s efforts, please contact Lauren Pardue at (704) 577-8444 or via email at Lfoxfarms@windstream.net.