In the face of catastrophe, and in defiance of it, a community has enveloped Isabella Bush and her family with love.
The healthy 13-year-old’s life took a drastic turn due to a routine surgery that resulted in an unexplained medical condition in the fall of 2021. In the months since, her story has inspired an outpouring of support from friends and strangers. The staff and students of Tallack Martial Arts are no exception, and are hoping to ease the next steps of her treatment with a day of “Breaking for Bella.”
Chief instructor Ken Tallack explained, “I’ve made a point of engaging in community fundraising events for the purpose, not only of supporting the people who are in need, but also because part of our philosophy of educating children is to encourage the importance of contributing to society. We want our dojo members to recognize that they personally can make a difference if they make the effort. And that’s part of our core philosophy at Tallack Martial Arts… that children grow with the sense of community involvement, and the importance of contributing to society.”
Tallack has known Bella for most of her life. “Her mum, Yanet, is from Venezuela, as is my wife, and they’re part of the Venezuelan community in Kingston. So we were well aware of this terrible thing that has befallen their family,” he said.
The ‘Breaking for Bella’ event is planned for Saturday, Sept. 10 at Tallack Martial Arts, which is located at 2777 Princess Street in Kingston’s west end.
“We’ve decided to bring the community together as much as possible. So we’re having a community yard sale, looking for donations… We’re also going to have a bake sale, which… people always enjoy. There’s also going to be a silent auction. We’re currently approaching local Kingston businesses to get small donations and gift cards that people can bid on,” Tallack shared.
However, he said, the main event is the opportunity for the youngsters at the Dojo to break a board.
He explained, “Board breaking is… a little controversial in the world of martial arts, but I grew up doing it myself, and I believe in the value of learning to focus your technique through an object.”
Like many other fundraisers, such as the Terry Fox Run or Jump Rope for Heart, martial arts students will be collecting sponsorships to contribute to Bella’s family, and then they will get the opportunity to break a board. That way, Tallack explained, “they make a contribution, they feel the effort, and they see the results, and we hope that encourages them to keep on going.”
Another exciting event that day will be a personal challenge for Tallack himself. September marks his 50th year as a professional martial arts teacher, and he has been thinking about something special he could do to recognize the occasion.
“There’s not many of us in Canada who’ve reached 50 years of professional teaching. And so, in order to mark that and to encourage participation in this event… I’m going to break 50 one-inch boards in less than one minute,” Tallack said. “I think that is something people might be interested in seeing.”
The timing of the event is meant to coincide with the next important step for Bella. Her mother, Yanet Bush, explained that Bella will be undergoing surgery to the brain known as DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.
“We leave on September 6, and surgery is going to be September 7 from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, and we [are] able to see Bella around 6:30 in the evening. We will stay there for five to seven days. And we’re going to be transferred to the kids’ rehabilitation centre at Holland Bloorview,” said Bush. The Bush family anticipates that they will need to be in Toronto for six weeks.
The Bush family has spent the past 10 months on the road, renting hotel rooms and attending therapy and appointments for Bella. Yanet even took an extended leave from work to care for her daughter.
According to Yanet, at the moment Bella cannot walk and is in constant pain, unable to speak, and sleeping most of the time, so preparing for the DBS is like hoping for a miracle. “Right now, she’s very scared. It’s a lot when you are 13 years old… she has stress.”
Despite this, Yanet said, Bella is aware of the community support and the ever-present love of her friends and family. “Bella knows that all her friends love and care for her. It’s a lot of work for everyone that loves Bella, my dear, but she knows. We take each day at a time, day by day by day.”
Those who would like to contribute to Breaking For Bella in the form of auction items, yard sale items, volunteering, etc. can contact Tallack Martial Arts at (613) 634-9277. The community can also attend the event, which takes place from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at 2777 Princess Street.
There is also a GoFundMe page dedicated to Bella’s treatment costs.