Shawn Hertel makes MMA debut Saturday to help Dandelion Foundation
When Shawn Hertel steps into the ring on Saturday night during 221 Industries’ ICF 18, he’ll have more on his mind than how he’s going to defeat his opponent.
That will be racing through his thoughts, no doubt, but he’s fighting his first MMA match for a much higher purpose.
No, when Hertel takes on Cody Vukasin in an amateur light-heavyweight match, he’ll also be doing so to help raise awareness and needed sponsorship funds for a foundation that works to prevent child and domestic abuse.
Six months ago, Hertel said he approached 221 Industries’ CEO Cory Smith about what he called a “crazy idea” that also would serve as a fundraiser for the Dandelion Foundation, of which Hertel is the vice chairman.
“I approached Cory and told him I said ‘You guys have a fight coming up in April and April is Child Abuse Awareness month, is there anyway we can do a fundraiser in April that goes along with that?’” Hertel said. “I then told him I might like to take it inside the ICF cage, to, you know, fight and Cory said ‘That’s a great idea, let’s do it!’ So he asked what weight class I was at and then asked if I would fight Cody, who is in the same class. After a short time Cody said yes and the rest so far has been history.”
Hertel came up with the name of the campaign, “I fight so the kids don’t have to,” as a way to put a name to the experience and it gave them something that people could associate with what he’s been doing to help raise awareness toward what the Dandelion Foundation’s end goal is all about.
Hertel said he’s gone through an intense training program for the past six months with Team Wolfpack and the Great Falls Martial Arts Academy to gear up for this bout.
“I’ve worked with Preston Bludworth in his Ju Jitsu class and have also been doing weight training through Access Fitness, along with working with Team Wolfpack,” Hertel said. “Each of these organizations have sponsored the training and gave to the cause saying ‘we’ll help you out with whatever you need,’ so that’s been an incredible thing on it’s own.”
Hertel said just through sponsorships he expects to raise at least $7,000 for the Dandelion Foundation. He said in addition to that they’ll sell t-shirts, hats and other merchandise with “I fight so the kids don’t have to” on them. All told Hertel looks to raise between $10,000 to $12,000 for the foundation.
Hertel also said to him this match isn’t a gimmick — he’s out to win fair and square, even though the children will be the real winners before any blows are exchanged.
“I’m a very competitive person normally so my competitive side says ‘don’t lose this fight’ but the realist in me says ‘well as soon as you walk into the cage you’ve already won since you did it all for a good cause,” Hertel said. “I’m going to give it my best and hopefully my hand is raised at the end, but I know my opponent has dangerous weapons. I’ll have to capitalize on his weaknesses and hopefully the cards fall in my favor.”
Hertel got involved with starting the Dandelion foundation after losing his daughter Tylin Garrymore in 2003 at the hands of her stepfather, who was sent to prison for life after being convicted in 2004.
The Dandelion Foundation’s mission statement, as read on it’s website is, “to prevent child abuse, family violence, and provide education and intervention to all groups of people. By educating and supporting those at risk for, experiencing, or surviving abuse. We will work to educate our community, provide resources, and take action to expand the fight for our cause. Through these efforts abuse will be prevented and families affected by child abuse or domestic violence will find a judgement-free place to get help.”
Hertel said since the foundation started, they’ve reached out to many people who needed help but weren’t sure where to turn or what to do next, many whom were complete strangers before coming to them.
“If people think they’re alone, they’re not. The board members of the foundation, most of them have gone through something abuse-related directly. The whole board is very passionate about our cause. …Even when it’s people we don’t know, we’re willing to be there to help them as much as we can either getting them a counselor, providing a safe place to stay, or doing whatever we can to help them.”
Hertel said as for his fight, he hasn’t had to go it alone, either as several businesses have stepped up to sponsor him, and his family has been very supportive of his decision to step into the ring on Saturday also.
“Everyone is excited and nervous,” he said. “They’ve all been very positive … they know where my passion is with this cause, and that’s carried over to the tremendous support the businesses who have sponsored me, also.”
The businesses and organizations supporting Hertel on Saturday are Scheels, My Neighbor in Need, Ox and Son Towing and Recovery, Central Montana Lock and Safe, Kelly Signs and Design, Access Fitness, Just Bounce, Play n’ Learn, First Impressions Denture Clinic, Get the Picture Photography, Noodle Express, Best Western Plus, The Gilded Leaf, Steel Ect., Mystic Rhythms, the Club House, Identity Screen Printing, Big Sky Harley and 221 Industries.
The ICF 18 fights, USA vs. Brazil, take place Saturday night in the Four Seasons Arena at the Montana ExpoPark. It starts at 7 P.M.
The Dandelion Foundation is selling T-shirts and hats for the campaign. Shirts from S-XL are $15 and 2XL is $20. Hats are $25.
Other Dandelion Foundation events this month:
– Million March Against Child Abuse at Great Falls College-MSU on April 18 from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M.
– Kolor Me 4 Kids Fun Run at Great Falls College – MSU on April 19. Registration starts at 12:30 P.M. There is a $25 entry fee, though kids 10 and under are free.