The Rambler family gathered in fellowship on Saturday, December 18, to have a relaxed and fun-filled day to wrap up 2021. With no classes since the end of March 2020, remote classes for a few months in early 2021, and the return to in-person classes at the end of 2021, it has been difficult as far as instruction. We owe a great deal to Head Instructor Adrian Seemangal for taking up the challenge of moving forward, honoring Dr. Thomas' memory and legacy, as we all try to work through our grief. We know Doc was there with us (as he always is), watching us play red light/green light, musical chairs, dodge ball, and laser tag, enjoying every minute because he was a big kid at heart. Youth and adults alike had a good time in each other's company as they played, snacked on party goodies, and left with a cookie tin as a holiday remembrance. We all hope 2022 will bring us tidings of great joy, so scarce since COVID hit in 2020.
The Rambler family gathered on Saturday, August 31, to celebrate the accomplishments of our many students and honor their families who support both them and We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems. Dr. Thomas presented awards to beginners, improving, and outstanding students. Awards were also given for True Guts, youth and adult Volunteer Junior Instructors, Higher Education, a Special Family Recognition for a parent and his sons who all are students, Special Recognition for loyalty and dedication, and Super Mom and Stand-Up Dad awards. Several grandparents who have been supportive and actively involved in the raising of their grandchildren were given Honorary Black Belt awards.
The highlight of the ceremony was the promotion of black-belt student Adrian H. Seemangal, who tested for the rank of and received his black belt on September 22, 2018. After successfully completing his probationary year of service and meeting all requirements, he was officially declared a first-degree black belt and teacher and received certificates for both honors. Dr. Thomas also gave him a new set of sparring equipment. Mr. Seemangal is a freshman at the University of Maryland; accordingly, Dr. Thomas presented him with a $500 award toward defraying his education expenses.
A small reception took place after the ceremony. It was a good day for the Ramblers.
Dr. Thomas congratulates all awardees and offers his best wishes for a safe and successful 2019-2020 school year.
Hearty and heartfelt congratulations are in order! Mr. Adrian H. Seemangal took his black-belt examination on Saturday, September 22. Dr. Clifford Thomas presided over the test and esteemed black belts Professor Bruce Goodwin and Kyoshi Steve Tolson served as the judges who decided whether Mr. Seemangal was worthy of being deemed a first-degree black belt. He passed with flying colors and received his black belt during an emotional ceremony, followed by the presentation of a special cake commemorating the event. Photos/videos will be posted on the Belt Advancements Photo page.
At the age of five, Mr. Seemangal began studying tae kwon do under Grandmaster Dr. Clifford Thomas. He had been eager to start learning this Korean martial art after watching a news segment with his mother and recalls he was enthralled after the first day of rolling and bombarding instructors with questions. Over the years, this intense interest developed into a focused, lifelong commitment to martial arts. Mr. Seemangal has natural athletic ability and is a strong competitor, garnering many trophies from numerous tournaments in which he has participated. He uses his quick, critical thinking skills to teach children, his peers, and older adult students. He is highly respected for the knowledge, dedication, patience, and maturity he consistently exhibits. Leading by example, he continually strives to improve as a leader for underbelts and as an individual, whether in the dojo or in the myriad community activities in which the Ramblers participate. He carries over these qualities into his school life as well.
At Rogers Heights Elementary School in Bladensburg, Mr. Seemangal was part of the talented and gifted program and played violin in the school’s orchestra. He participated in the Science Bowl and the Young Scholar Program of the National Center for Early Academic Excellence. He often chose leadership roles in classes and was recognized for his efforts. As part of the Creative and Performing Arts Program at Hyattsville Middle School, he played violin and then bass with the orchestra and performed in school musicals. He continued to pursue leadership roles and maintained honor-roll grades.
A senior (2018-2019 school year) enrolled in the Science and Technology Program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Mr. Seemangal has taken multiple Advanced Placement and honors courses and received the Harvard Book Award, the highest honor only one junior-year student can receive in English each year. He is a member of the Italian Honor Society. During this last year of high school, he will complete his Research Practicum, a rigorous year-long research project. A bassist in the school’s symphony orchestra, he also enjoys playing and creating music. A perpetual learner, he is passionate about writing, philosophy, and photography and videography.
The Rambler family gathered in fellowship on Saturday, December 9, to celebrate our organization and wind up an action-packed 2017. Although the first snowfall of the year graced the day with an attractive seasonal backdrop, it provided a few travel challenges. Nonetheless, a number of families came out and we all had a good time. Children and parents played basketball, small chidren ran and played, and adults line-danced to music provided by an M-NCPPC staff member who is a deejay. The potluck lunch included a Filipino dish with hand-rolled shrimp rolls, roasted chicken with sauces, croissant deli sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, chips, and desserts (cheesecake, peach cobbler, pound cake, cookies, muffins). Over lunch, Dr. Thomas acknowledged the students who came for their hard work during the year and thanked their family members--mothers, fathers, grandparents, and friends--for their support. He talked about the Rambler organization and its longer-term goals as we go into 2018. Several Ramblers spoke about their experiences with the organization and thanked Dr. Thomas for his martial arts instruction and personal support over the years and expressed their appreciation for the Rambler family and the support it offers students and their families. Our talent show featured dancing, singing, and a clarinet solo. Our six competitors won either a bookbag with supplies or a box of candy. We thank each of you who braved the snowfall for providing a dish to share among our families. Thank you to Ms. Bruno, Ms. Champion, Mr. Jenifer, Ms. Hanson (grandmother), Ms. Seemangal, Ms. Swindell, and the Zumba instructor, who helped set up, serve, and clean up, and to all the other parents and adult students who helped make this such a successful event. Finally, thanks to the Bladensburg Community Center staff for helping us set up and break down the set-up. We hope you enjoyed your plate of food as well. A day to remember!
2016 is almost over! The Ramblers gathered once more in fellowship on Saturday, December 3. We stuffed ourselves with a tasty potluck lunch and a great talent show! So much good food, including chicken wings, fried chicken, shrimp scallopini over linguini, pollo enchiladas, meatballs, hot dogs, red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, chips, salad, fruit, and desserts (cakes, cupcakes, cookies, candy, muffins). We thank each of you for providing a dish to share among our families. Our feast was followed by a talent show, one of the best we've had--instrumental selections on trumpet, flute, keyboard, violin, and guitar; singing; dancing; and gymnastics. The top six competitors won either a collection of different types of pens and markers for school or a Rambler tee shirt. Thank you to Ms. Johnson, Mr. Powell, Ms. Taylor (mother), Ms. Taylor (grandmother), Ms. Seemangal, and Ms. Swindell, who helped set up, serve, and clean up, and to all the other parents and adult students who helped make this such a successful event. Finally, thanks to the Bladensburg Community Center staff for helping us set up and break down the set-up. We hope you enjoyed your plate of food as well. A good day all around!
The Rambler family had fun and good times on Saturday, December 19, as we gathered in fellowship at the Bladensburg Community Center. We enjoyed music, ate good food, and had a talent show. Our potluck dishes included chicken, meatballs (two types) and spaghetti, rice, taquitos, salads, hot dogs and assorted chips, pizza, and desserts (cookies, cupcakes, and candies). Nine students--the four Yearwood sisters, D. Douglas, E. Hernandez, A. Hornberger, A. Martinez, and A. Palacios--provided the entertainment in the talent show by singing, dancing, playing the violin, and even doing a cheerleading routine. Dr. Thomas presented each of them with a prize for participating, including a $20 gift certificate and several kinds of art supplies. He also made a special presentation of an honorary black belt certificate to Mrs. Arminda Agueta, A. Martinez' grandmother, who is returning to El Salvador after a long visit to Maryland that included coming several times to her grandson's tae kwon do classes. Dr. Thomas honored her because she exhibits true dedication to her children and grandchildren and to the Rambler family. Dr. Thomas cannot thank the parents enough for their support by providing dishes and other potluck goodies and for their good will and continued support. He especially appreciates the hardworking parents and children who helped set up and clean up. What a great way to usher in 2016!
What a special day for the Ramblers at Bladensburg Community Center on Saturday, August 29! J. Estrada, E. Giron, E. Jones, C. Luque, J. Luque, D. Miles, K. Ocampo, M. Ocampo, P. Omasere, J. Payne, S. Quiroz, M. Rodriguez, A. Sobo, and B. Sobo received their white belts and trophies. Youth students A. Belt, C. Guzman (true guts award), D. Jenifer (outstanding student) and his brother D. Jenifer, A. Martinez, and M. Smith received their purple belts. Adult student A. Cabrera received his green belt and H. Jenifer received his purple belt. Dr. Thomas awarded S. Albert, A. Belt, A. Jackson, C. Jackson, J. Luque, A. Mendez, A. Ngansi, C. Ngansi, O. Olowe, P. Omasere, J. Payne, M. Rodriguez, M. Smith, and B. Sobo $20 each for having been on the honor roll all four quarters of the 2014-2015 school year. He gave E. Hernandez and A. Hornberger $20 each for being junior instructors during that time. Before he left for his second year at Northwestern University, Dr. Thomas awarded J. Martinez $100. The organization distributed a total of $420 to support the education of the Rambler students. Two special guests dropped by to help celebrate these many accomplishments--Maryland Senator Victor Ramirez and Bladensburg Town Council Member Trina Brown. We thank them for taking time out of their busy schedules to acknowledge the work of this organization. Below is a photo of the honor roll students with Dr. Thomas and Senator Victor Ramirez. Photos of belt awardees are found on the Belt Advancement Photos page.
On Saturday, December 13, Dr. Thomas was true to his word and gave awards to every Rambler student, youth and adult, and to their family members, and to individuals in the community who lead by example and provide good role models for the youth in the community. This year, we featured music from a local deejay (Patti Bell, Ooowhee! Karaoke Mobile DJ Service) and had lunch catered by Kluck-U Chicken (Lanham, Maryland), as well as provided various tasty snack treats. Awards and the talent show were the big news, however, and there were plenty of both to go around!
Whitney Brogsdale and Keith Hinton, our two adult black belts, were feted at the banquet. They each received two beautiful certificates created by Dr. Thomas to officially acknowledge that they have attained the rank of 1st degree black belt and are certified to teach basic tae kwon do. They will be presented with their Rambler rings on a separate occasion, as well as their certifications from Korea. A distinguished guest at the event was Professor Bruce Goodwin, who was one of the black belt judges at Ms. Brogsdale's and Mr. Hinton's September 2011 black belt test and had personally signed their rank certificates, as had the three other black belt judges, Grandmaster Chris Edwards and Grandmaster El Sloan (from New Jersey) and Kyoshi Steve Tolson, who were unable to attend. New students received the Beginner Rambler Student Award, which reads: To acknowledge your willingness to accept new challenges and join the ranks of the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers. White and gold belt students were given the Improving Rambler Student Award, which reads: To acknowledge your hard work, marked progress, and dedication to the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers. Students with green belts and above were awarded the Outstanding Rambler Student award, which reads: To acknowledge your hard work, outstanding performance, and dedication to the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers. Some students received the True Guts Award, which reads: To acknowledge your outstanding effort to achieve and accept new challenges with the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers. A. Belt, A. Martinez, A. Ngansi, C. Ngansi, A. Rincón, and J. Umana were acknowledged as outstanding students and received trophies in addition to their certificates. Special awards of a $25 gift certificate were given to M. Davis (Sportsman Junior Instructor of the Year), A. Hornberger (True Guts Junior Instructor of the Year), E. Hernandez (Competitor/Entertainer of the Year), E. Martinez (Dedicated Student of the Year), J. Martinez (Higher Education Award), J. Sanders (Volunteer Junior Instructor Award), M. Sanders (Volunteer Junior Instructor Award), and A. Seemangal (Volunteer Junior Instructor of the Year). Stand-Up Dad and Super Mom Awards were presented to students' parents, which read: To acknowledge you for being all you should be for your family and for your dedication to the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers. Several grandparents who are actively involved in their grandchildren's tae kwon do experience received Honorary Black Belt certificates, which read: The above-named person has successfully completed the requirements for certification and is awarded the above rank for the love and rearing of children and grandchildren. Dr. Thomas presented a special trophy to Ms. McCutchen, who had helped him make preparations for the banquet and produce the numerous awards, and is his "right hand" in the Rambler organization.
Without caring families, youth would not be able to flourish, and it is important to acknowledge that it does, indeed, take a village. In this spirit, Dr. Thomas acknowledged several Leading By Example Awards to local public officials, Bladensburg Community Center staff, and others who have positively impacted the Ramblers and other youth in the community. This award reads: Because of your dedication, there are more positive leaders representing our youth today. Although Senator Victor Ramirez was unable to attend, a representative for newly-elected Delegate Diana Fennell was on hand to accept for her; newly-elected Delegate Jimmy Tarlau sent his regards in advance and expressed his support for Dr. Thomas and the Ramblers. Bladensburg Councilmembers Trina Brown and Beverly Hall accepted certificates on behalf of Mayor Walter James, Councilmember Walter Ficklin, and Councilmember Cristian Mendoza, and PFC David Calloway, who was a guest speaker at the Ramblers' October 2014 Bullying Prevention Workshop. Malcolm Augustine of Bladensburg, who ran for delegate and is active in the community, accept his award at the event. Bladensburg Community Center Director Christy Irving and staff members Louise Munford, Keith Stewart, and Nick Walton were in attendance, and Ms. Irving accepted certificates on behalf of activities director Byron Jones, Brandon Bolton, Jason Branch, Jerry Byrd, Richard Bynum, James Cox, Rodney Griffin, Niya Long, JoAnn Martinez, and Ellis Taylor. Bladensburg Community Center staff are important to the operation of the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers, but are rarely acknowledged for their work, including with dance, basketball, teen, and other programs for the youth and adults in the community. In addition, Deacon Barbara Givens, president of Seniors against Stalking and Domestic Violence Support Group (a We Lead By Example, Inc., partner) accepted her award and an Honorary Black Belt Award; her grandson is a Rambler student. Jerry McLaurin, from People for Change Coalition (a We Lead By Example, Inc., partner) accepted his award and those of Sandra Pruitt and Sylvester Jones on their behalf. Juwan Blocker, a remarkable young man who is active in the community and performed original poetry at our October workshop, unfortunately was unable to attend.
To cap off the event, we had a tremendous talent show. A. Belt played guitar as D. Spirtovic danced, E. Hernandez danced to Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, A. Hornberger played cello, D. Jenifer sang a cappella, E. Kilgore sang, A. Seemangal played violin, M. Smith played viola, and S. Smith rapped. Who knew we had such talented students? Each of them received a special sweet treat for their efforts--a large box of candy or a package containing four special hot chocolate flavors. To cap off the excitement, with money collected from a 50-50 raffle, two Rambler family members received $25 each to sweeten their holiday seasons--a parent (Kabeer Burns) and a grandparent (Nancy Bellamy). (Sorry, kids, that's the luck of the draw!) Dr. Thomas thanks everyone who attended for their continuing support of the Rambler organization. In particular, he would like to acknowledge parents Mr. Hornberger, Mr. Jenifer, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, Ms. Seemangal, and Ms. Swindell for graciously pitching in by helping set up, pick up food, serve food, and clean up. Even Ms. Bell, our deejay, helped cut and serve cake! He hopes everyone had a good time at our banquet and is having a good holiday season. He looks forward to a very productive new year!
Dr. Thomas sat on a black-belt panel to judge the belt advancement tests of three students of Professor Bruce Goodwin's Universal Korean Martial Arts Academy in Upper Marlboro on Saturday, March 1. On the occasion of the belt ceremony that took place after the testing, during which one green belt and two black belts were awarded, Professor Goodwin also presented Dr. Thomas with a striking blue-hilted sword with ornamental blue scabbard in honor of his attainment of the traditional rank of grandmaster on February 23, 2014. In addition, Professor Goodwin provided Dr. Thomas with a certificate of authority from the World Tukkong Association to practice tukkong moosool for the period March 1, 2014, through March 1, 2020. This official certificate, signed by the association's Grand Master Lim Ung-Hwan and President Young-Jun, indicates that
Dr. Cliff Thomas has satisfied all requirements for managing the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers in accordance with the law of the World Tukkong Association. The World Tukkong Association hereby permits the practice of Tukoong Moosool to the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers.
It is an honor for the Ramblers to be designated as a sister school through the traditional (and rare) practice of officially sanctioning the teaching of a different style of martial arts, in this case also Korean, at a school that teaches another style. Dr. Thomas was surprised and pleased to receive the beautiful sword. He was overwhelmed and deeply moved by the significance of being given the certificate of authority. The Ramblers will benefit greatly from this continuing strong alliance with Professor Goodwin's academy.
On Saturday, December 21, the Rambler family presented Dr. Thomas with a professionally-framed display of the cover and his bio pages from the 2013 Prince George's SuiteWho's Who Magazine. See the August 2013 entry below to read about him being honored as one of the top 125 community leaders in Prince George's County.
Dr. Thomas invited Sifu Gerald Brown, a renowned top-ranked black belt known for his formidable skills in the ring that he continues to demonstrate after years of competition, to work with his advanced youth and adult students on Saturday, January 12. Rambler students learned about the importance of stances and footwork in fighting and were given the rare opportunity to practice these firsthand with a fighter consistently ranked number one. Sifu Master Brown also showed and demonstrated several weapons with which he competes and some basic moves he uses in his forms. The Ramblers look forward to him returning in the future to share more of his knowledge to help them improve and expand their own skills.
Dr. Thomas, Grandmaster Ali Shabazz, and Grandmaster Clarence Murray provide outstanding leadership and collaborate to promote understanding of the practice, the spirit, and the teachings of the martial arts. They are well-respected martial artists and professionals in their vocation, and they encourage individuals to continually learn and keep their minds open to and accepting of new ideas, approaches, and methods, both in the martial arts and in life. In this spirit, at the invitation of Dr. Thomas, Grandmaster Shabazz and several of his adult and youth students came to teach Rambler students in Bladensburg on Saturday, January 5, for two classes. Grandmaster Murray and some of his students were also in attendance. Grandmaster Shabazz is a teacher, practitioner, and student of the Asian martial arts with close to 40 years' experience. His career began in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received his black belt and began his martial arts teaching career. His training included classes in Shotokan karate, jujitsu, and aikido. Grandmaster Shabazz and his students began the day by doing impressive demonstrations of several of their techniques. They then worked directly with Rambler white- and gold-belt students and showed them how to properly execute jujitsu rolls, highlighting the differences between these and the rolls they have been taught by Dr. Thomas. Advanced youth and adult students were honored to be instructed in several self-defense techniques, with Grandmaster Shabazz emphasizing, as does Dr. Thomas, that one must be prepared to protect oneself on the street or elsewhere in situations in which an attacker intends to do harm. He reminded the students that the word martial refers to war, and that students need to be warrior-like in their approach and understanding of methods associated with fighting, should it become necessary. A practitioner of the martial arts must be mindful of self-protection methods that will effectively and easily decimate the attacker or opponent so that he or she can walk away from the situation unharmed. At the end of the day, each of the guest instructors were honored to receive the Ramblers' school tee shirt as tokens of appreciation for their time and efforts. Dr. Thomas and the Ramblers look forward to visiting Grandmaster Shabazz's school in Baltimore and Grandmaster Murray's school at the Sports and Learning complex in Landover, Maryland, to demonstrate and teach some of the skills they have learned from Dr. Thomas.
The Ramblers capped off the summer with a talent show and a barbecue at the Bladensburg Community Center on Saturday, August 18. Ten Ramblers with talent in musical instruments (two guitars, a trumpet, and the keyboard), dancing, hula hooping, gymnastics, and magic and basketball tricks, competed in the talent show. First and second place went to students N. Potts, who played the guitar and sang his own composition, and to M. Smith, hula hooper extraordinaire, who danced and grooved to the music, all the while keeping the hula hoop in motion. All ten competitors received prizes for their efforts, which included two bookbags with computer cases for the first and second prizes, four shoulder-sling bookbags, and four sets of a selection of markers and a puzzle of the United States. Mr. Brogsdale, father of black belt instructor W. Brogsdale, served as barbecue master and served up hot dogs and hamburgers (in addition to running errands). Potluck dishes provided by generous Rambler families included chicken, meatballs, macaroni and potato and other salads, two kinds of baked beans, chips of all varieties, and desserts. Ms. Swindell, a Rambler adult student and mother of M. Smith (and an avid hula hooper in her own right!), served in the role of coordinator of a team of mothers who took charge and made sure that everyone was served and that everything was cleaned up. Mr. Silver, father of three female and one male Rambler student, went above and beyond by doing errands and organizing the setting up and breaking down and cleaning of tables and chairs (with the willing help of his children and other Ramblers), and the chore of disposing of trash. Dr. Thomas wrapped up this special Rambler family event by acknowledging the dedicated and supportive families and evoking a positive and productive future for We Lead By Example, Inc., the nonprofit/for profit co-organization of the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems, including the goal that is dear to his heart of being able to provide educational scholarships to help his students achieve not only in martial arts, but in their careers and everyday lives.
After the first class of the day on June 2, Dr. Thomas was taken by surprise when Mr. Johnny Sullivan asked to go onto the floor to voice Rambler family appreciation and to present him with two beautiful sheet cakes (chocolate and vanilla) from the families of T. Fogle and D. Smith, Rambler students who had just received their white belts. It was noted that Dr. Thomas leads by his positive example and serves as a mentor for Rambler students. He often says that he loves what he does, and this is apparent in the way he develops his students. To have his students and their families spontaneously honor him in this way is very special for Dr. Thomas, and he expressed his heartfelt thanks to these very thoughtful families for their special efforts and to the Rambler family as a whole for their support of his program in various ways that help keep the organization strong. After the second class of the day, Dr. Thomas was again most pleasantly surprised when he was presented a proclamation for his community work from Bladensburg Mayor Walter James and the Town of Bladensburg, which noted that he is a committed "visionary and dedicated member of the Town of Bladensburg family," and that his work has resulted in "a tremendous positive impact on our community as a whole." It came as no surprise to anyone, however, that Dr. Thomas wrapped up the day by going right back to work and conducting his third class, which included four adult white belts who had patiently waited to test for their gold belts. In the Rambler house, there is no such thing as resting on one's laurels or basking for long in the glow of accolades!
Dr. Thomas and Professor Bruce Goodwin provide outstanding leadership and collaborate to promote understanding of the practice, the spirit, and the teachings of the martial arts. Each is a well-respected martial artist and a professional in his vocation, and they both firmly believe that an individual should continually learn and keep his or her mind open to and accepting of new ideas, approaches, and methods, both in the martial arts and in life. The joining of their two schools in a seminar on self defense and sparring techniques at Professor Goodwin's Universal Korean Martial Arts Academy on Saturday, March 17, is an example of the cooperative and competitive lessons they promote for their students. Twenty-three youth and adult Rambler students participated in this excellent experience, and they learned techniques from Professor Goodwin, his black belt instructors, and his students. In addition to the wealth of knowledge and the opportunity to practice together, the camaraderie and fellowship among the instructors, the students, and the parents made this event something special for everyone. A remarkable breaking demonstration was the culmination of the training session, which was followed by an early dinner of egg rolls, hamburgers, hot dogs, delicious potato salad (prepared by Mrs. Goodwin), chips and salsa, and drinks provided by Professor Goodwin's organization. The Ramblers thank Professor Goodwin and his school, including the parents and volunteers who worked so hard to prepare, set up, and clean up the dinner feast, for hosting and offering such warm hospitality to the Ramblers. Dr. Thomas and the Ramblers look forward to hosting the Universal Korean Martial Arts Academy in kind in the near future. For photos of the event, see the slideshow on the News Photos page.
On Saturday, December 11, the Ramblers' fellowship gathering was held to bring our family together for a potluck lunch and an unbelievable talent show. Parents and several young people pitched in to help set up, organize the dishes in the serving line, serve, and clean up afterward. The delicious food featured main dishes (including chicken prepared in a variety of tasty ways, rice, macaroni and cheese, sushi, Mexican eggrolls), followed by cakes and pies. As the dining area, with tables decorated in green and yellow school colors, was being prepared, children and parents had the chance to relax and play basketball in the gym, while Dr. Thomas showed his deejay skills. Before lunch began, Dr. Thomas thanked everyone and expressed his appreciation to those families who came out to show their support for the organization. He emphasized that the Rambler organization is multiethnic and multicultural, and that he will not exclude any student who comes to learn martial arts. He also spoke about his pride in his many students, citing in particular his two brown belt leaders, W. Brogsdale and K. Hinton, who will test for their black belts next year. Another speaker reminded students and parents that Dr. Thomas is an exceptionally dedicated teacher and that he expends so much effort in developing students because he loves what he does. The afternoon ended with a talent show in which about 20 students of all ages sang, danced, played instruments, and did an amazing exhibition of different types of flips and rolls (especially popular this year). It was a close contest to the very end, but seven emerged as finalists; they included two clarinetists, as well as singers, dancers, and a gymnast. Prizes were awarded to the winners who were chosen by popular demand; however, just as in tournament competition, everyone was a winner because each competitor stood before the audience and did his or her best.
The Tae Kwon Do Ramblers' family sent a donation to Yele Haiti to help Haitians in the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquake. The Ramblers considered a number of organizations, but decided to contribute to this organization because its mission and vision align most closely with those of the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers. Yele Haiti's ongoing efforts to promote and sustain education, health, the environment, and community development are notable and the Ramblers hope they will continue to be fruitful for both the rebuilding of Haiti and the benefit of its citizens. The following individuals/families made donations: Abraham, Blair, Brown, Chang, Ellis, George, Gorham, Gray, Hinton, Hornberger, Johnson, Martinez, Mars, McCutchen, McKeown, Muhammad, Nichloas, Seemangal, Thomas, Upshur, Williams, and Wisher.
On Saturday, December 5, the Ramblers' fellowship gathering/awards banquet and the first snow of the season coincided to create the perfect atmosphere for a meaningful and enjoyable event. Dr. Thomas gave certificates for special achievement; improved student; 2008-2009 honor roll student; outstanding katas, fighters, and weapons; true guts; outstanding peewee; junior instructor; and youth and adult leading by example. Stand-up dads and super moms were honored for the love and support they give to their children. Grandparents Patricia Ellis and Victoria Findlay were awarded Dr. Thomas' prestigious honorary black belt rank for the love and rearing of children and grandchildren. The outstanding service award was given to Ms. Patricia Wilson in honor of and appreciation for her years of unselfish service to the Rambler organization, and she was presented a bouquet of roses from the children who were gathered on the floor by Dr. Thomas to make the presentation.
Dr. Thomas lauded special guest black belts Bruce Goodwin, Jr., Phil Anderson, and Larry Gholson for promoting martial arts and fellowship, and for having significantly contributed to the betterment of martial arts and the edification of other communities about “The Way of the Martial Artist." Of special note, black belt Professor Bruce Goodwin was given the 2009 Humanitarian Award for these same achievements, with Dr. Thomas recognizing him in addition for his positive impact, acts of heroism, promotion of fellowship, dedication to the martial arts, academic advancements or contributions, diplomatic endeavors, and community contributions. Because of their dedication, there are more positive leaders for our youth today. Professor Goodwin gratefully acknowledged the awards given to him and his black belts, indicating that the Rambler students and their families should fully appreciate and take advantage of the remarkable skills, dedication to the martial arts, humanity and commitment to the community, and entertaining sense of humor brought by Dr. Thomas. He remarked that Dr. Thomas is a true friend who not only talks about loyalty but demonstrates it through his commitments to the Ramblers and others. These sentiments were underscored by the spontaneous expression of appreciation by the students, who descended on the floor to thank Dr. Thomas with a group hug.
The food was delicious and everyone had his or her fill, with parents graciously helping to set up, serve, and clean up. A delicious fruit salad led to a variety of main dishes (meatballs, noodle dishes, macaroni and cheese, chicken both roasted and fried, to name a few), followed by desserts, many homemade from scratch. The tables decorated with the school colors and the backdrop of snow seen drifting down outside made it a festive occasion.
The finale was a talent show judged by three of the black belt honorees. A. Hornberger played the guitar and sang a song she had written. K. Gorham and A. Hornberger performed a song from the Cheetah Girls. A. Clement, dressed as Frederick Douglass, read a report he had written about Mr. Douglass, and performed a dramatic recitation of a poem written by him. E. Hernandez danced to a Michael Jackson song and his moves were so remarkably evocative of the artist that his performance brought the audience to its feet clapping and cheering. Last but not least, M. Clement, in dancer's costume and with feet skilfully punctuating the wide variety of steps in her dance routine, tapped her way into the audience's heart. A. Clement, E. Hernandez, and M. Clement were caught in a three-way tie for first place, but all were so popular that the audience demanded they all be declared the winners. Everyone who participated received a special prize. As the event wound down, Dr. Thomas thanked everyone and expressed his appreciation to those families who came out to show their support for the organization.
About 60 talented young people from the Washington area appeared in this anniversary production of the Northeast Performing Arts Group (NEPAG), which featured elaborate feline costumes made by the parents and performers. The young performers of all ages danced to complicated choreography in this outstanding production. Dr. Thomas has been involved with and supported NEPAG for many years and has seen children, many of whom were also his students, grow into adulthood. When you lend your support to organizations that give local young people the opportunity to work together in positive activities, think of NEPAG, 3431 Benning Road, NE, Washington, DC 20019, telephone: 202-388-1274, (Rita Jackson, President and Executive Director).
On Saturday, May 24, the Ramblers celebrated the 2007-2008 Awards Banquet and Talent Show. Despite the Memorial Day weekend, a crowd came out for the event at the Bladensburg Community Center and had a good time all around! The pot luck was a taste treat with something (a lot of it!) for everyone from appetizers through desserts. Dr. Thomas thanked everyone who contributed these delightful dishes. Led by Pat Wilson, a group of volunteers organized and set out the food, served it, and cleaned up afterward. Dr. Thomas thanked them for their hard work, along with others who assisted in this successful Ramblers' team effort by setting up tables and chairs and did whatever else was needed. These events don't happen by themselves, and the way everyone pitched in made it clear the Ramblers lead by example! Noting their work as his volunteer assistants in organizational business throughout the year, Dr. Thomas again thanked Ms. Wilson and Susan McCutchen for their ongoing contributions. Dr. Thomas presented certificates to his talented students--special achievement, true guts, outstanding fighter, honor roll student, youth and adult leading by example, and junior instructor. Ten outstanding students in three age groups were honored with beautiful silver cups trophies--R. Cabrera, A. Christian, A. Clement, L. Graves, E. Hernandez, A. Hornberger, J. Martinez, N. Potts, M. Sanders, and A. Seemangal. Super Moms and Stand Up Dads were honored, and their certificates were presented to them by their children, who publicly thanked their parents for all they have done for them. Several grandparents--Sandra Abrams, Marian Fitch, Sharon Graham, Joan and William Kaczor, Samuel and Janice Nicholas, James Plummer, and Melbourne Williams--were awarded honorary black belt status by Dr. Thomas, who noted that these individuals not only have raised their own children, but are helping raise their grandchildren. Bladensburg Community Center staff Lori Smith, Steve Ellis, Rodney Griffin, Ellis Taylor, and James Cox were presented with leading by example certificates to thank them for their strong support of the Ramblers program. The highlight of the afternoon without a doubt came with the tremendously entertaining talent show. It was one not to be forgotten, with impressive yo-yo and a hulahoop demonstrations, musicians who played the trumpet and a dulcimer, and four talented dancers, including a step performer. Dr. Thomas awarded a new uniform to all the talented contestants; a bow set to those placing second, third, and fourth; and an official pair of martial arts shoes to the first place winner.
On Saturday, August 26, the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers and their families congregated at Buddy Attick Park in Greenbelt, Maryland, and threw a thoroughly unforgettable barbecue, complete with Mother Nature’s uninvited guests. From the firepit, Stalwart Grillmaster Dr. Clifford Thomas served up chicken and ribs (shhhh … the sauce is a secret) along with hamburgers, hot dogs, and half-smokes. The Ramblers’ clan rounded out the feast with an array of homestyle cooking. With a selection of fresh salads, potato salads, macaroni and cheese, pasta dishes, baked beans, and desserts, you can bet no one went home hungry! All was washed down with Southern-style sweet tea, the hit of the afternoon. Dr. Thomas would like to express his gratitude both to the wonderful Rambler parents for preparing these delectable dishes and to those parents who labored tirelessly in setting up this event.
Several rounds of face-stuffing and belly-filling later, Ramblers of all ages branched out for activities in the park. Some took in the sights of the scenic lake and local wildlife, while others expended their energies romping at the children’s playground or playing basketball, baseball, or volleyball. Greenbelt’s Shakespeare in the Park performance group satisfied the more culturally-minded with their staging of the tragic play Hamlet (swordplay included).
Dr. Joe Parrish, president of the United States Head Of Family Martial Arts Association (USHOFMAA) and esteemed martial artist, came with his family in the late morning to show his personal appreciation for the work of both Dr. Thomas, USHOFMAA's executive vice president, and the Rambler organization. The highlight of the afternoon was the showcasing of the Rambler students by a very proud Dr. Thomas. Guest of honor Professor Bruce Goodwin, another member of the USHOFMAA and a self-defense expert of note, brought his daughter to the event. He spoke to the Rambler students directly, reminding them that they would greatly appreciate their remarkable training and opportunities in the years to come.
The outing was a very special event for the Ramblers; one that will surely prompt more gatherings in the future. For the time being, the Ramblers’ calendar of activities will include an intramural tournament (Who Will Be the Mighty Ram?) and an awards ceremony potluck at the Bladensburg Community Center.