Kellie Thomas wins martial arts award

MIDDLEBURY’S KELLIE THOMAS, holding plaque, was given a national award for operating a welcoming martial arts school. Thomas is the owner and operator of TaeKwonDo KICKS. Photo courtesy of Kellie Thomas

MIDDLEBURY — TaeKwonDo Master Kellie Thomas of Middlebury recently won a national award for operating a welcoming school teaching the martial art. 

At Whistlekick Never Settle Awards Banquet in Keene., N.H., in November, four different awards were given and the top three nominees were recognized. These awards were presented jointly by, an online magazine, and Whistlekick, a Moretown, Vt., martial arts company that supplies martial arts equipment, hosts a martial arts podcast and plans various martial arts events throughout the country.  

TaeKwonDo KICKS and Thomas were awarded the Open Door Award. This award is given to the person who operates a school that has created a culture where students would refer to it as home and family. Everyone is welcome and wants to be there — with each other, even though they are all different. These schools make everyone feel welcome, regardless of what they bring to the table. Past training or not, all ages, physical capacity, and more. These schools accept everyone, and make sure that their first few months is only the beginning of the journey.

The two other nominees were Sensei Matt Erolin of Erolin 3DMA in Lancaster, Calif., and Kera Radke of Lake Zurich Family Martial Arts in Lake Zurich, Ill. 

For the nomination process students had to write why they felt their instructor was worthy of the award. Master Thomas was nominated by 11 of her students and parents. Below is the one nomination Never Settle Awards Team decided to use for the final voting.

“Kellie has truly developed a family here at TKD Kicks. Our kids feel so welcomed and loved. They feel comfortable being encouraged and pushed to new milestones. She’s compassionate and wants to know the students, to best connect with them to meet them where they’re at in their training. She creates family friendly days to include anyone else in the families to participate and have fun. The bond is so strong between the families. 

“Even if we don’t know each other yet and are meeting for the first time, we all know we are family. We all encourage each other and cheer each other on, no matter the level. We help lift each other when times are hard. Both of our kids have conditions that create challenges and barriers … Kellie has created an amazing, inclusive environment!”

Master Thomas said she feels so honored to have support from her students and their families in creating an “open door” environment for KICKS. 

That same November weekend, Master Thomas and several of her students attended the WhistleKick Martial Arts Free Training Day at Saint Joseph Regional School in Keene. At this event students were able to choose from 23 different seminars and learn from martial artists from the Northeast. Free Training Day Northeast is one of WhistleKick’s biggest events and was attended by 165 martial artists.

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