If you view Jesse Minton’s YouTube video, in which the 11-year-old humbly and articulately solicits donations so he can compete in the World Taekwon-Do Alliance championships in Roana, Italy, in July, it’s hard not to develop a soft spot in your heart for the cute sixth-grader.
He’s brutally honest when saying, “I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. ‘I know there are a whole lot more worthy causes out there, but I know my video is going to resonate with some people. I would just ask that you share it and share it until our goal is met.’ ”
Jesse, a first-degree black belt, won a national championship in Dallas in November to earn a spot on Team USA. In addition to four lessons a week in tae kwon do, a Korean martial art with a heavy emphasis on kicks, he boxes three times weekly to improve his footwork and increase his endurance. And two nights a week he trains in both sports. “People can’t believe that,” he said, “but that’s what it takes.”
Jesse trains at Greenwood Christian Martial Arts and receives instruction at Indy Boxing and Grappling from Sugar Ray Seales, a gold medal boxer from the 1972 Olympics, and Ultimate Fighting Championship trainer Pat McPherson, who mentored Southport graduate Chris “Lights Out” Lytle. Jesse is joined on the team by four other students at the martial arts academy, two of whom qualified in Dallas and two who were named to the team when positions opened.
Jesse, whose skills have been described as world-class, is best referred to as dynamite in a small package since he weighs only 75 pounds and is just 4 feet 10 inches tall. He will compete – multiple times daily – in his weight class in the 10- and 11-year-old age group and in a team setting with the national squad in synchronized forms and sparring.
This is not Jesse’s first attempt at seeking donations via the Internet, having raised about $1,600 to cover the cost of going to Dallas with his dad, Steve Minton, a real estate broker with Keller Williams. The only disappointment was that enough money wasn’t raised to allow Jesse’s mom, Ginny, and sister Jordan, 6, whom he calls “quite the little cheerleader,” to make the trip.
While the Mintons enjoyed moderate success with their first video, the challenge this time is a little more daunting as they are hoping to raise about $16,000 so the entire family can go. A little more than $3,000 has been generated through the video, which can be seen at www.HelpJesseSucceed.com.
“By no means is this a family vacation, said Steve. “We will be there just long enough for the event. We are struggling to raise the money.”
Jesse, who’s home schooled, said he hopes that his mom and sister can go, but if they can’t, he gets it. “I really, really want them to come because it is the world championships, and it would mean a lot to me.”
If the Mintons fall short of their goal, the trip is still doable albeit without mom and sister. If the benefit is a flop – and the family has discussed that – Jesse’s world championship dreams will be put on hold.
“The next four weeks in the fundraiser are key,” said Steve, who would like to purchase the airline tickets by June 19.
An upcoming benefit will be held from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at Pizza King and Ella’s Frozen Yogurt & More, behind the Mike’s Car Wash at 520 N. State Road 135, Greenwood, where a percentage of the sales will be donated to the campaign. There will also be a raffle for a television.
“We are not just looking for handouts,” said Steve. “We are willing to give some value in return.” Jesse has done a voice-over commercial Leanne Schulueter, an Olympic teamwho has volunteered to care for his physical needs.
Steve is hoping to sell sponsorships on Jesse’s warm-up attire, much like race car drivers display of their driving suits. “He will wear that suit everywhere. I don’t care if it stinks.” Call 223-4988 if interested.
Jesse is also a giver to his community and looks for every opportunity to assist others. He helps teach taekwon-do to younger students and will serve as a camp invention counselor next week at Westwood Elementary School in Greenwood.
While Jesse, who has suffered his fair share of big nose bleeds and locked jaw, knows that raising $16,000 is anything but a given, he remains optimistic and is grateful to those who have supported him. “And my mom and dad are great. My mom makes sure I have nutritious food so I can recover from training, and my dad takes me to all of my training and practices.”
A portion of the money raised is going to cover the expenses of equipment, uniforms and mandatory training sessions that Jesse has once a month with the national team in various Southwest cities.
The 14-hour drives can get long for the two of them, Steve said. “But we pack a cooler and pour a bowl of cereal or make our sandwiches on the hood of the car. We are building a lifetime of memories.”