By Darren Myers
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – On Saturday May 16, Grand Master Philip Ameris’ Cho’s Taekwondo Center, located on Carl Avenue in New Kensington, will host a charity Spar-a-Thon event for former taekwondo student, Michael Fraser.
Fraser is a Vandergrift native and student of Philip Ameris Sr., who has been teaching taekwondo since 1977. Ameris Sr. is the owner of Grand Master Philip Ameris’ Cho’s Taekwondo Center that will hold a charity event for Fraser.
Fraser was paralyzed from the waist down during a swimming accident in July of 2013. He was a student of Ameris Sr.’s for 10 years prior to the accident and was a 3rd degree black belt. Fraser, 21 at the time of his accident, broke three different vertebrae (C4, C5, and C6) as well as bruised his spinal cord. He fought through multiple life-threatening surgeries and is now working towards his Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science as a senior at Robert Morris University, where he lives on campus.
Fraser’s accident has left him in a wheelchair, but his spirit still stands tall. “There’s no quit in him whatsoever,” Ameris Sr. said of his former star pupil. Fraser, who was once considered a quadriplegic, is now able to go to college, finish his degree, live on his own, and “drive an amazing, tricked out van,” said Fraser’s mother, Mary, with a humorous tone in her voice.
After his accident, Fraser’s friends all banded together to form the “Mike Fraser Benefit Fund,” which is an organization created to help Fraser along his journey. Unfortunately, not all of the life-saving procedures that Fraser endured were entirely covered by his insurance. In order for Fraser to stay on the right path, he looks to the generosity of others for help. This benefit fund will help Fraser continue on the right path and continue the rehabilitation he needs.
“He never feels sorry for himself,” mentioned Mary. For that reason, Ameris Sr. gave him the nickname “Warrior Mike” after the accident, and it stuck.
The license plate on Fraser’s van reads “Warrior Mike.” “He’s the epitome of a warrior,” Ameris Sr. said. “Usually, after an accident like that, you see kids become defeated and feel down about themselves, but not Mike. When you go to cheer him up, you go there and he cheers you up instead.”
When asked about the Fraser family and how his relationship was with him, Ameris Sr. said, “They’re like family to us. We got the phone call (of the accident) and we all went to the hospital.” “I’ve never seen a closer, harder-working family.”
“Words can’t describe how amazing they are,” said Mary of the Ameris family. “They’re the most amazing people you can meet.” There was nothing but appreciation from one family to the other.
Philip Ameris Jr., son of Philip Ameris Sr. and friend of Fraser, was the brains behind the operation of the Spar-a-Thon. He is the one who created the flyers, brochures, and made all of the phone calls that helped put this plan into action.
“The support of the students has been overwhelming,” Ameris Sr. said. “When we call a meeting about Warrior Mike, its 70-100 people (attending).” Students offer their assistance wherever it may help. Students previously volunteered their time at the Fraser household to assist in building a ramp to make the house more wheelchair-accessible.
All proceeds of the charity Spar-a-Thon will go to the “Mike Fraser Benefit Fund.” The Spar-a-Thon will be a two-hour-long sparring marathon with participants ranging from six years old to 65. People attending the event include, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters Chris Dempsey and Dom Mazzotta, a previous student of Ameris Sr. They will be there to support Fraser and the event.
Participants will be sponsored to fight and the cost of the person will be based on how many rounds they plan to spar. Participants may also make a flat donation to the “Mike Fraser Benefit Fund.”
All expenses of the event will be paid for through Ameris Sr.’s Taekwondo Center’s scholarship program. The event is also sponsored by the Laborer’s District Council of Western Pennsylvania, which Ameris Sr. is the President and Business Manager of.
The event will also include a live DJ, a bake sale, and 50/50 raffles in the parking lot of the gym. LA Taco, the Pittsburgh based taco truck that travels to cities around the area will also be there to serve their Pittsburgh famous Mexican cuisine.
For more information on the “Mike Fraser Benefit Fund,” go to http://www.warriormike.com.