When Robin Taberna came back from Vietnam he wasn’t greeted with a hero’s welcome or the “thank you for your service” verse that is commonly bestowed upon people in uniform today.
And so he wanted to rebel – against the people that called him a “baby killer” and against those who used his service to the United States against him during the late 1960s.
But something intervened. He found martial arts.
For the last 34 years, Taberna – a Hall of Fame martial artist that earned his black belt in Taekwondo in 1968 – has been offering free classes to kids at Manteca Boys and Girls Club. Thousands of students, including some that have gone on to become champions themselves, have worked their way through the free program that began when the organization first opened its doors.
Knowing full-well the respect and discipline that a craft like Taekwondo can provide, Taberna has made it his mission to offer those same opportunities to disadvantaged kids that might otherwise find themselves heading down a similar path of rebellion and show them that hard work and perseverance are essential parts of success.
And he’ll have $20,000 to further that goal.
Taberna was recently named a “Maytag Dependable Leader” by the corporation made famous for its reputation as being a product that regular Americans could rely on, and a $20,000 check is on its way to the non-profit to help with scholarships and furthering a program that has become an institution within the community.
He’s one 11 recipients of the award being distributed in conjunction with a partnership between the Maytag brand and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
“Master Taberna has led outstanding efforts at our clubs that have resulted in remarkable growth for our kids,” said Boys and Girls Club of Manteca Executive Director Jeannie Miller. “Not only is Robin a phenomenal karate instructor, he has committed himself to mentoring youth without expecting anything in return.”
On Saturday Taberna will be on hand to receive the award in a special ceremony inside of the gymnasium that served as the home for his instruction for more than three decades. A select group of his students will perform a demonstration for those who attend the luncheon which takes place just six days before the annual Boys and Girl Club telethon that serves as the organization’s main fundraiser.
Getting a chance to shine a light on the program, Taberna said, is a treat unto itself.
“When I went to Vietnam and I’d see these kids when we’d come into villages that had come out and beg because they had nothing. I told myself that if I made it back that I was going to do something for the community,” Taberna said. “And when the Boys and Girls Club opened up I got the chance to finally do that. It’s an effort that gets kids off the street and helps put them towards getting back on the right path. The kids that come to the Boys and Girls Club do so because they’re looking for mentors in their lives and being able to be there for that purpose is a great honor. There are lots of great kids that come through the program and with the grant we’re going to be able to help them even more.”
The ceremony will take place on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. inside of the gymnasium at 545 W. Yosemite Avenue. For more information about the classes visit www.bgmanteca.org or call 209.239.5437.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.