THE VONDRASEK FAMILY was central to a ribbon cutting dedicating the Don Vondrasek Dojo at the Shiawassee Family YMCA on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 23. Gathered were (from left) Teresa Graham with Jane, Matt and Kate Vondrasek. Jane was Don’s wife. He had six children and three were able to be present including Teresa, Kate and Matt.
Don Vondrasek and his family are rather legendary, both at the Y and in the community, for their amazing accomplishments in judo. Don was a fifth-degree black belt.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
Almost two years in the making, the Don Vondrasek Dojo at the Shiawassee Family YMCA was dedicated with a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Present for the dedication were Don’s wife, Jane, and three of his six children, Teresa Graham, Kate Vondrasek and Matt Vondrasek. Also present were Sensei Ozzie Portice, Shiawassee Family YMCA CEO Laura Archer, Senior Program Director Jen Lintner, board member Hugh Parker and others.
“Don Vondrasek is still a legend here at the Y. His leadership and dedication to the organization are just a few of the reasons for this dedication,” stated Archer. “Today wouldn’t be possible if not for the vision of another man though. Ozzie Portice approached the YMCA with a vision and passion for bringing judo back. We thank you for your commitment to seeing this project through, for your incredible community connections, and your excitement for reviving Judo at the Shiawassee Family YMCA.”
Don Vondrasek was a fifth-degree black belt who started all his kids in judo by age 7. He competed in the master division judo and dominated for 10 years as a state champion three times and a national champion six times. He was inducted into the Michigan Judo Hall of Fame in 1997. Several of his children followed in his footsteps and went on to the national, and even international, level themselves.
“We reaped so many rewards from our experiences with judo and not only athletic. We made many friendships and were able to travel. We truly appreciate the work Ozzie and Josh Morris have done,” shared Teresa Graham after the ribbon cutting.
It was decided to turn the Kids Gym into the Dojo which would entail updating not only the space but also the mats. A ‘Sponsor a Square’ fundraiser was launched at the Y in the fall of 2019 and between the generous donations from members, businesses, and organizations, the goal was met right before Christmas. Planning was underway when COVID hit and the Shiawassee Family YMCA was forced to close its door for over 6 months. The mats were ordered over the summer and over Christmas Break, Matt Vondresak donated the paint and labor, Portice built the subfloor, and Dustin Krouse from Floors & More donated the new carpet.
The Don Vondrasek Dojo held its first class January 19 with two sold out age divisions. The Shiawassee Family YMCA is currently taking registrations for the next session of judo, which begins on March 2. A third class has been added to meet demand. Portice teaches the class along with his assistant Morris. Registrations can be made online or by calling the Y.
The Shiawassee Family YMCA, serving the community since 1947, is committed to nurturing the potential of children through Youth Development, improving our community’s health and well-being by promoting Healthy Living, and fostering a sense of Social Responsibility by providing opportunities to give back and support our neighbors.
For more information, contact Shiawassee Family YMCA at (989) 725-8136 or visit shiawasseeymca.org.