Family steps outside its comfort zone

Cloverdale's Smith family refuses to let barriers stand in the way when it comes to pursuing Taekwondo.

The Smiths from left: Patrick

The Smiths from left: Patrick

It’s not every family that finds itself with three champions in its midst.

But Amy Smith, her brother Patrick, and dad Stephen have all been named Canadian champions in Taekwondo.

They each won their respective classes in the American Taekwondo Association/World Traditional Taekwondo Union.

The Smiths train locally at Cloverdale Black Belt Academy, where their achievements are being celebrated, and are helping to inspire those around them.

“It is always rewarding to see our students overcome obstacles and achieve success,” says Karen Bennett, co-owner of CBBA, and a competitive Taekwondo champion herself.

“The Smiths not only had the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and try a new challenge, but they had the determination to see it come to fruition.”

Patrick, sparring champion for first degree black belt (boys aged 12-14), is autistic. His parents were told he’d never achieve a Grade 1 reading level much less excel at martial arts training. These days he’s looking forward to learning to drive – and attending university.

Amy, who took first place in both sparring and forms in first degree black belt (girls 12-14), is also on the autism spectrum.

But it’s their dad, Stephen, who has Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative nerve condition, who may have faced the biggest challenge in taking up the physically demanding martial art.

His MS meant sometimes he had to look at his feet to know where they were (he couldn’t feel them), and an instructor had to stand behind him, just in case he lost his balance.

He earned first place in forms in his division, too, earning the Smith family a hat-trick.

No wonder mom Sue Smith, also a student at the academy, is so proud: “Stephen and I never thought we would become parents,” she said, explaining how the couple waited 14 years before welcoming Patrick into their “hearts and our home.”

Like his twin siblings, Amy and Noah, he came into the Smith family from Kazakhstan through adoption.

“[They] have consistently amazed us with their drive and zeal for life and all it has to offer,” Sue says.

Now that he’s watched three family members have success, brother Noah is thinking about entering the competition for Canada Champ next year.

The Taekwondo association Cloverdale Black Belt Academy belongs to, meanwhile, has just partnered with Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization.

“This is near and dear to our hearts,” Karen Bennett says, turning back to her admiration for the Smiths.

“They deserve a lot of recognition – they’re such a special family.”