DAYTON, Ohio – Jeffrey Wall is 15 years old and a black belt in karate.
“I got it when I was 13,” he explained. “I wanted to feel like I could protect myself and stay disciplined.”
It’s an accomplishment big enough on its own, but Wall has taken his skills to another level.
“I thought about who doesn't get a lot of attention,” he said. “So, I was like let me try with the nursing homes and help the seniors, because many of them don't get love and their people don't come to see them, so let me come to see them and become their grandchild.”
Inspired by his sister’s nonprofit, he decided to start one of his own, focused on helping seniors stay active and learn self-defense skills.
“Some of them, when they first came to practice, they were all down and not happy and after they just started getting hype,” Wall said.
He started by regularly visiting a nursing home in Ohio last year, but with stay-at-home orders put in place due to COVID-19, he’s had to switch things up.
“Doing my YouTube channel and trying to stay active on that account so I can also teach the seniors, not only the seniors, but any children that want to do it,” he said.
Wall adapted to the distance, making videos, teaching from porch steps and picking up the phone to keep in touch with his students, like Sandra Campbell.
“Miss Sandy was at my first ever karate class,” he explained. “Ever since then, we just started talking and she’s so proud of me and we became close ever since then and now I’m her little grandchild.”
Campbell said she’s learned a lot from the 15-year-old instructor.
“I've learned self-confidence. I have learned to check my surroundings,” she said. “He is wise beyond his years and it’s obvious he’s a very caring person.”
Campbell, 77, doesn’t have a way to watch Wall’s videos during quarantine, but he still has ways to keep in touch.
“I’ve been trying to stay connected with my seniors. I call my seniors. I also have cards and art decorations for them,” Wall said.
“We’re just proud that he decided to take time to show love to people that are sometimes forgotten,” said Valerie Wall, Jeffrey’s mom. “One of them wanted to marry him and she’s 100 years old and just the stories. They’re pretty amazing.”
Wall is excited to get back to working in person with his seniors sometime soon.
“We’re coming back stronger,” he said.
But in the meantime, he’s found a way to reach even more people with his message, people from India to Colorado to Virginia.
“He’s gotten e-mails from London and Nigeria with young people that said they haven't been able to do their karate journey because they don't have access to it. So, they come on and watch him,” Valerie said.
“Everyone can be able to join in and it’s free. I just like helping people out,” Wall said.