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Karate kids: Tournament raises funds for children’s cancer treatment

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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Honorary Blackbelts

HONORARY BLACK BELTS – Brennan Griffen and Joselyn Iniguez, center, earned honorary black belts at the Monica Lopez Invitational Karate Tournament June 2. Stephen Starnes, Max Cardoza, Brandi Hicks, Monica Lopez, Jose Luis Iniguez, Alicia Iniguez and Jose Luis Iniguez Jr. helped present them their belts. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

More than 140 competitors faced off at the fifth annual Monica Lopez Invitational Karate Tournament June 2, raising money to help pay for kids’ cancer treatments.

Two children, 9-year-old Brennan Griffin and 8-year-old Joselyn Iniguez, will split the $7,800 raised at the tournament. The money was raised through entry fees, donations and sponsorships from local businesses.

“A whole bunch of people donated or sponsored,” said Stephen Starnes, the owner of North Texas Karate Academy, which hosts the tournament. “It was very successful.”

Starnes said Fabio LaBrada, the founder of Raquel’s Wings, a non-profit that gives cancer patients free flights to hospitals, brought the kids to his attention. Brennan has been through a dozen surgeries since the age of 3 due to a brain tumor, and Joselyn is recovering from treatment for leukemia.

Joselyn underwent her last chemotherapy treatment in December, and when the doctors cleared her for physical activities she joined the karate academy.

“She’s doing better now,” Joselyn’s mother Alicia Iniguez said through a translator. “As soon as they released her from chemo she decided to join [karate classes].”

Josalane and Brennan were given honorary black belts at the end of the tournament. To Joselyn, a yellow belt, that gesture meant a lot.

“She was really happy about [the black belt] and very surprised,” Alicia Iniguez said. “They treated her really well.”

The tournament started as a way for the local martial arts community to give back to one of its own, Monica Lopez, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Every year the proceeds go to help a cancer patient.

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