THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, July 21, 1995 TAG: 9507190202 SECTION: VIRGINIA BEACH BEACON PAGE: P04 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY DAWSON MILLS, CORRESPONDENT LENGTH: Medium: 86 lines
A martial arts team descended upon Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk last Friday to do battle against an adversary more formidable than evil Ninjas or other villains found in popular action movies.
Dragon Force, the karate demonstration team of the Ryoshin-Kan Karate School on Lynnhaven Parkway in Virginia Beach, had come to stage an action-packed, half-hour exhibition, complete with musical sound track, for the hospital's young patients.
The 20 team members demonstrated their skills enthusiastically, despite the 90-degree heat in the outdoor eighth-floor play area. About a dozen young patients watched the show through a glass wall from inside an adjoining air-conditioned room, along with relatives and hospital staff.
The mock battle was staged to combat some real enemies: the fear, despair and boredom that can envelope CHKD's young charges, especially the most seriously ill, robbing them of their childhood and its pleasures.
Dr. Ronald Freund, an orthopedic hand surgeon and assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, has a black belt in karate and is affiliated with the school sponsoring Dragon Force. He hopes that other organizations will follow Dragon Force's lead and volunteer to come in and lift the children's spirits.
``For the sickest children, the terminally and chronically ill, the effect on their psyche is very important,'' explained Freund. ``Their immune system functions better when they can get their minds off their illnesses. Things like this make them feel better. If they feel better, they will be better. It enhances their recovery capabilities.''
Freund, a Virginia Beach resident, is disappointed that he has been unsuccessful in persuading entertainers, such as magicians, to donate time to perform for such kids. He said the role they could play in the healing process is so clear that he cannot understand why others fail to see it.
Freund also has organized drives for CHKD and the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth that provide toys for young patients on a bi-weekly basis throughout the year.
The patients' response to the recent Dragon Force show was unmistakable.
Steven Curtis, 6, of Norfolk, seemed to forget that his leg was in traction as he gazed in rapt attention at the action outside.
Vincent Davis, 3, watched with his mother, Crystal, seemingly oblivious to his scars from recent surgery.
After the show, members of Dragon Force mingled with patients and shared some refreshments.
``It was good!,'' observed young Steven as he talked with Dragon Force member Alfred Alejandro.
Alejandro's teammate, Matt Borloz, 12, of Virginia Beach, noted, ``I like all the friends you make.''
Tim Thompson, head of Ryoshin-Kan Karate School and director of Dragon Force, was clearly pleased that, despite a busy schedule, his team could be a force for good in the lives of the kids. Dragon Force, he explained, has performed up and down the East Coast, including area festivals, an annual show at the Field Team Reunion at Little Creek, the NFL Hall of Fame Banquet in Maryland several weeks ago, and a recent appearance on ``Good Morning America.''
Dragon Force, he continued, will premier its first movie, ``The Adventures of Dragon Force,'' on July 29. The 40-minute, professionally produced film features the team doing battle against the dreaded Ninja Pigs.
Dragon Force is composed of mostly younger black belts, both male and female, Thompson explained. The members range in age from 7 into their 40s with the average age in the teens. They include an MIT-bound graduate of one of the area's private schools and a Norfolk policeman. They practice their routines two or three times a week and have performances almost every weekend throughout the summer.
Thompson has two other karate programs in Tidewater as well as schools in Lexington, Va., the Bahamas and Scotland. MEMO: For information about Dragon Force, call 468-1643. To discuss
opportunities to entertain CHKD's young patients, call the hospital's
Child Life Department at 668-7327.
ILLUSTRATION: Photo by DAWSON MILLS
Dragon Force member Josh Morgan, left, shows Jay Pauth, 5, of North
Carolina, a karate maneuver.
Members of the Dragon Force perform for patients at Children's
Hospital of The King's Daughters.