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Hilliard taekwondo business continues to struggle due to pandemic

Team Players TKD in Hilliard said the cost of the pandemic is taking its toll.

HILLIARD, Ohio — In this pandemic, the small businesses that give the most, are hurting the most.

That’s the case for Team Players TKD in Hilliard.

When you walk in for the first time, the first thing you’ll notice is all the photos on all the walls. Many of the kids pictured in the photos set some pretty big goals here, and have since achieved them.

"They come here they think a lot of times I think to learn to kick and punch,” said Robert Irvin, founder of Team Players TKD. "At the end of the day it's the smallest part of what they get."

Irvin pointed to one photo of a young girl named, Deena. He said she was a student here for 16 years.

"She told me when she was a young child she was going to grow up to be a brain surgeon. By the time she was 21 she was published in the New England Journal of Medicine," he said.

Irvin has been teaching judo and martial arts here for 22 years. It was never his plan to do this. He originally opened the studio because he needed a place to get ready to train for the Olympics.

While he didn’t make it to the rings he got a reward greater than any medal could offer.

A community that knows his name because he remembers the name of every child he meets.

"He knows every single kid's name when they walk through that door,” said Theresa McClinton.

McClinton said two of her daughters learned valuable life lessons from Irvin.

“That sense of like empowering the kids and making them feel like they have control over their destinies and their choices and there's more inside of them than what they realize there is and he helps show them that it's there and helps them bring that out,” she said.

Irvin has had thousands of students from all over central Ohio and from all different backgrounds.

He offers scholarships so cost isn't a barrier.

But now, the cost of the pandemic is taking its toll.

"Not seeing this place, it would feel like a piece of Hilliard is missing,” said McClinton.

Enrollment is down by half and it's not enough to keep the doors open.

The struggle to return to pre-pandemic profits is one felt by so many small business owners.

"If every single one of these business owners were forced to shut their doors, the very heart and soul of our community would really just be gone,” said McClinton.

Irvin's not ready to let go.

"Imagine being able to be selected to help guide someone else's child in life?” he asked.

To let go of his goal of leaving a mark on his community.

“It's an incredible feeling,” he said.

McClinton and others are rallying to make sure these doors stay open for good. Theresa is in marketing and she's actually lending some of her talents to redesign a new website for the business.

There is also a GoFundMe for Team Players TKD here.

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