Billy Blanks does the Jack

By Ryan Laverty

      Before he leaves for the war-torn city of Kosovo on a "goodwill tour," Billy Blanks, the creator of the fitness craze Tae Bo, will make a stop at the University of Calgary. He will be at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium on Sun., Sept. 30, from 1-4 p.m. for a quick workout meant to benefit the Calgary Special Olympics.

"I was a young man who was in special education," explained Blanks. "So anytime I can help special kids out and help them be the best they can be, it’s just an awesome thing to do."

As a child, Blanks was afflicted by dyslexia and poverty and had hip anomalies. Over his lifetime Blanks rose above forlorn conclusions that he wouldn’t amount to much. Upon discovering karate at the age of 12, the ceiling for what he could do rose with every belt he acquired.

His commitment to overcome the odds propelled him all over the world. In fact it even propelled him to Calgary.

"I’ve been here a couple of times," said Blanks. "I used to come here to fight in competitions and I think it’s a great city."

With the creation of Tae Bo, Blanks reached new heights in both his own personal fitness and international fame. Training the likes of Paula Abdul, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wayne Gretzky, and motivating people across the United States increased Blanks’ notoriety to the point where he can charge $30,000 for a single appearance. But, according to Calgary Special Olympics Vice-Chair of Management Committee and Chair of Tae Bo Live! Jennifer Diakiw, Blanks’ convictions for this cause were stronger than money.

"There was a private company in Calgary that offered him the $30,000 to come and speak to their employees and clients and he rejected them," explained Diakiw. "But when we asked him to come do this he said yes immediately."

A not-for-profit organization, Calgary Special Olympics operates on a budget of $350,000 per year and is responsible for 31 different sport programs for people with mental disabilities aged eight to 62. Funds are stretched and paying Blanks was not a viable option.

"He’s coming because he has great empathy for our athletes," reasoned Diakiw. "He grew up with a learning disability. He has an idea of what these people go through."

At a cost of $50 for adults and $35 for students, Tae Bo Live! will be a great workout for a great cause at a reasonable price. Plus, you get a free T-shirt and get a chance to meet the man. All proceeds go to Calgary Special Olympics.

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