Fourteen-year-old KE has been in and out of the hospital for ECD, a rare disease that causes his body to reject food, among many other disorders, for his entire life. On May 11, he was one of hundreds who gathered in New York City’s Times Square to watch martial artist Leif Becker’s quest to break a world record by smashing 12,000 boards in 24 hours.
Becker succeeded, and through this incredible feat, raised more than $11,000 for enCourage Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports artists in residence, art therapies, and art supplies for hospitalized children like KE.
Before the event, Becker had visited New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital to meet with kids. Together, they decorated boards with the medical barriers they wished to break like fear, cancer, and dialysis. KE drew himself with his feeding tube and was very excited for Becker to smash his board because he really wants to break barriers in his life.
Becker smashed these and many other boards designed by the kids during the 24-hour event, which began at 8 a.m. at Ripley’s Believe it or Not! During each of the 24 hours, Becker broke boards for 30 minutes, then rested and iced his arms and legs for 30 minutes.
To prepare for the event, Becker trained his body and his mind. The hardest part, he explained, was to stay focused. When he failed to break a pile of boards, he knew he had lost his concentration and had to re-engage. But his main inspiration was the children he met through enCourage Kids.
During his rest time, Becker looked at photographs of his visit with the kids to renew his energy when he was feeling tired and beat up. He was also inspired by his nephew Tuck, who lost his life to cancer at age 17. Becker kicked off the ninth 30-minute session with a board he made himself. It read “Luck to Tuck” and had a drawing of a four leaf clover.
When asked what it would mean to him to break the world record in honor of the kids, Becker said, ”You asked the question the right way. It’s about the kids. The world record is second, the kids are first. It's about the strength that I know they have…and the problems that I know they are facing.”
Becker stayed strong for 24 hours, setting an unbelievable world record. This was a thrilling event, witnessed by enCourage kids, tourists, and other midtown Manhattan visitors. Watching Becker break boards in front of an amazed crowd, KE danced and cheered, excitedly anticipating his board being broken. Seeing KE’s reaction definitely helped Becker make it through.
Said KE, “Most people want to break the world record to be the best, but he’s doing it to help us and to break barriers to help kids like me with disorders, and to raise money for us, so we can be happy.”
Photographs by Katherine Kostreva (2, Becker); Henry Mode (KE)