Now 17, Jennifer is a first-degree black belt and working toward her second-degree. It's safe to say the Spanish Springs student has excelled in the martial arts scene and flourished in life. During that same time span, Martin's younger sister Carissa has dealt with the challenges brought on by autism.
At Evolution Martial Arts Academy, where Martin trains, students are required to do a community service project before they can attain their second-degree black belt. Martin put on her thinking cap and she came up with an idea that would satisfy her community service project needs and help families like hers, who face the struggles of a child suffering from autism.
Martin with help from her fellow members at Evolution, will be soliciting donations at Reno's Parent Teacher Aids, located at 5000 Smithridge Drive in Reno. The donations will be distributed to families in the Autism Treatment Assistance Program (ATAP).
"My little sister has autism, So I know what that's like," Martin said. "Your hear about Relay for Life and other fundraisers, but you don't see a lot out there for autism. I thought a fundraiser for that would be a good idea. For children with autism, therapy is expensive."
Martin's mother Christina knew her daughter had the community service project on the horizon, but when she heard Jennifer's plans, her heart melted.
"She already gives us so much," Christina Martin said. "She's amazing. She helps a lot with her sister. She gives a lot of herself and she never complains. For her to come up with something like this, I was ecstatic that she was giving even more."
Jennifer Martin chose the Parent Teacher Aids location because it has many learning products targeted for families with autistic children and other special needs. She has great expectations for the fundraising project, which is scheduled for Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. She hopes to raise $2,500 during the afternoon and said the funds will be used to purchase 'starter kits' for families with autistic children.
Additionally, the Martins have set up an account at Frontier Financial Credit Union where anyone can donate to the cause if they can't stop by the fundraising event in person. That account number is 80806007.
Christina Martin is pleased that Jennifer has a caring heart. Jennifer believes that her athleticism and buy-in to martial arts is an impetus for her efforts in trying to help her sister and other autistic children.
"I like martial arts and I like that I feel more confident," Jennifer said. "If something were to happen, I could defend myself. It keeps me really fit. It's a good discipline."
Christina Martin likes the community service theme at Evolution. She knows it's helped shape her older daughter and in turn her younger daughter.
"Martial arts have been amazing for Jennifer," Christina Martin said. "It's given her a lot of self confidence but also made her aware that in this life it's not all about you. That's played a role in the type of person she's growing into. She's had to make sacrifices growing up with a sister with a disability. I think she has a lot more empathy than the average person does."
Jennifer Martin also runs on the track team at Spanish Springs. She said she hasn't narrowed her career path down too much at this point, but likes the idea of a career in the medical field, possibly sports medicine.
Then again, her long-term future isn't her focus right now. A Sunday afternoon event focused on raising money for autism awareness is. And she's got a message for anyone who can help!
"I have seen first-hand the struggles and sacrifices needed to raise money and provide therapy for a child with autism. It's not easy. Every day brings challenges … I want these amazing children to have a chance to be heard. Please join us in this endeavor!" she said.