On Saturday night, a fire destroyed the Sault International Karate Daigaku (SIKD), a business near and dear to the hearts of many Saultites – and for good reason. This facility offers programs for adults with autism, making it critical in the development of many special needs adults and children in our community.
Tiina Niemi, mother of an 18-year-old with autism, Noah, who practices at SIKD, told Superior Media “It is next to impossible to find programs that cater to This is one of the few businesses in the whole city that offers programs for adults with autism… I had to watch my autistic son who doesn’t cry or hug, cry and hug me for an hour last night and my heart is broken.”
Sensei Chris Troch, who runs the dojo, is a father of six kids, two of which have needs that he has done his best to cater to by offering specialized programs at his business. Tessa, his 20-year-old daughter, has Spina Bifida, and Connor, his 12-year-old son, has Down syndrome.
Niemi speaks highly of Troch. She describes him as an amazing man who works extremely well with special needs children. And she’s not the only one who appreciates the work Troch puts in. His Facebook page is overflowing with posts by those whose lives he has influenced in a positive way.
One post by Phil Harris states, “Sensei Chris Troch’s dojo suffered major damage last weekend due to a fire. This kind, patient, caring man and his dojo have been doing wonderful things for the community in Sault Sainte Marie, including offering karate classes to special needs children and adults. I am saddened to know that these individuals with so few options available to them have one less now. Please like, share, and donate to help get Sault Sainte Marie IKD back on their feet again” (referring to the GoFundMe page).
Another post on the GoFundMe page by Paula Niemi reads, “Sensei Chris is a truly amazing person with a kind heart. He definitely gives back to his community so we should support him in this time of need. Please like and share this and donating any amount will definitely help”
Troch, who has spent 30 years teaching and 34 years training, offers unique programs for children with special needs at his dojo, which has been around since 1984. He works 55 students at his school who are now out of a place to practice Karate.
Tiina Niemi has started a GoFundMe page as referenced above in order to get the place back up and running. While insurance will help to restore the business, the dojo will not be in a position to offer any programs over the summer. Niemi describes this as “a devastating blow to many special needs families in this city.” Her son’s passion lies with this program. Not to mention, Troch has a family of his to feed and support in the meantime.
While the business is still standing and was not damaged first hand by flames, it has extensive water and smoke damage.
Amidst dealing with the chaos of coming home from a Karate trip to the devastating loss of his business, the Sensei’s dedication to the kids and adults he teaches is unwavering. He has found a new location, Holy Angels, for the students to do their testing ceremony on Monday June 25th, and is paying the John Rhodes Community Centre to rent space by the hour so he can continue teaching. These costs will come out of pocket, as insurance does not cover these losses.
That is why, Saultites, we are calling upon you to come together as a community to assist this local business owner and the students that he so passionately teaches. If you are willing to offer support Troch do not hesitate to reach out to the dojo on their Facebook page. If you are willing to donate to the cause (any bit helps!) click here.
The interview with Tiina and Noah Niemi cal be found here.