Cary-Grove karate kid headed to Germany thanks to donors

Published: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 5:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 10:07 p.m. CDT

CARY – The last thing Kai Hayashi wanted was a big deal.

Just don’t tell his sister, Nikki, who caught wind that the 15-year-old had qualified for, but couldn’t afford, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to compete in a karate tournament in Germany.

She made a big deal about it.

“I said, ‘I hurt for you, I’m so sorry,’ ” said Nikki, who started an online fundraiser to send her brother to the competition.

Kai Hayashi, a sophomore at Cary-Grove High School, works three jobs and had saved just over $1,000. The trip costs $3,600 – a dollar amount far out of his parents’ reach, he said.

That’s when Nikki Hayashi stepped in, started an online fundraising campaign, and in one month Kai had raised enough to head to Munich.

Kai didn’t initially embrace the idea. It felt like begging, he said. His goal felt so unattainable.

“We were saying we didn’t think that we would get that much money from people,” Kai Hayashi said.

“The first day we got $800. I thought, ‘This can happen.’ ”

Donations came from people he knew and many he didn’t – for those, he sought them out on Facebook and sent personalized thank yous.

At 15 years old, Kai Hayashi has competed in karate since he was 3 years old. He’s previously qualified for international competitions but never could afford to go.

The International Open WKC Championship karate tournament in Munich will be his first time on the world stage. He qualified at a competition in July in Chicago.

“It’s exactly what you would see in the movie ‘Karate Kid,’ except not as cheesy,” Kai Hayashi said, explaining the tournaments.

Nikki Hayashi calls her brother “focused” and “determined.” He works out five days a week at his Crystal Lake dojo, Focus Martial Arts & Fitness, where he will be training until he leaves Jan. 22 for five days.

“I have high standards, I want to win, I want to get first place,” Kai Hayashi said. “I don’t want to let people down. They gave me a lot of money.”

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