On Thursday, March 2, UFC athletes Erin Blanchfield, Vanessa Demopoulos, and Walt Harris joined the Aniah’s Heart Foundation to host a youth self-defense seminar in partnership with UFC GYM and Girls Empowerment Middle School (GEMS) in Las Vegas, as part of UFC 285: JONES vs. GANE fight week.
The two-hour seminar comprised 65 students representing grades 6 – 8, teaching the foundational elements of self-defense, best safety practices and how to be more aware of their surroundings. Hosted at the UFC FIT Centennial location, UFC GYM President Adam Sedlack and former UFC athlete Scott Jorgensen also joined the event.
Founded in 2020 by Angela and Walt Harris after the tragic loss of their daughter, Aniah, the Aniah’s Heart Foundation aims to increase safety education to prevent kidnapping and to support families that are searching for a loved one.
“We are proud to partner with UFC and host today’s youth self-defense seminar with Girls Empowerment Middle School,” said Angela Harris. “The 6 – 8 grade age group is the perfect range to begin teaching young females the importance of self-defense and knowing their surroundings. We want to help prevent abductions and hopefully we’ve made an impact on these young women today.”
Serving as the only all-girls, tuition-free, public charter school in the state of Nevada, GEMS provides a safe, unique learning experience for girls in grades 6 – 8. GEMS fosters intellectual, mental, and emotional well-being, empowering girls to become leaders who make a difference.
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“We can’t thank UFC and the Aniah’s Heart Foundation enough for teaching our students the fundamentals of self-defense at UFC FIT,” said GEMS Executive Director Tara Meierkord. “The basic skills of self-defense are important for all youth to learn, and although we hope none of our students are ever in a situation where they have to be to use these skills, it’s also an important lesson to always be aware of their surroundings.”
At the conclusion of the event, the UFC Foundation made a $10,000 donation to GEMS, and a $25,000 donation to the Aniah’s Heart Foundation in recognition of the organization’s 30th anniversary.
UFC’s corporate social responsibility program, #UFCInTheCommunity, strategically collaborates with partners, sponsors, and athletes to develop additional charitable programs and funding sources to help bolster and inspire the local community. For more information, please visit UFCFOUNDATION.