Kids Kicking Cancer began in the summer of 1999 when Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg created a pilot program at Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM) to demonstrate the power of therapeutic martial arts. Rabbi G., as he is affectionately referred to by the children, is a first-degree black belt in Choi Kwang Do, as well as a clinical assistant professor in pediatrics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. He received his BA from Yeshiva University, summa cum laude. Ordination and graduate training were also at Yeshiva University. He and his wife, Ruthie, lost their first child to leukemia in 1982.
Rabbi G. first experimented with a therapeutic martial arts program at Camp Simcha where he was serving as the Camp Director; the camp provided a summer sleep away experience for 200 cancer patients between the ages of 3 and 19 in the early 1990s. It was there that he experienced how desperately sick children were positively transformed by martial arts movement and empowerment. At that time Rabbi G. was serving as the full-time spiritual leader at Young Israel of Southfield. With the permission of his congregation, he incorporated Kids Kicking Cancer in June of 1999 and began teaching weekly classes at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan with the first 10 children. One of those students is now a full-time black belt Martial Arts Therapist (MAT) for the Heroes Circle.
Rabbi G. is an awardee of the Robert Wood Johnson, Community Health Leaders Award in Washington D.C., known as the United States’ highest award in community public health. He has been honored as a Hero in People Magazine, CNN Top Ten Heroes, and the Ford Motor Company’s Heroes Gallery, amongst the many media stories featuring the work of Kids Kicking Cancer.