When Liz Bouciegues opened the Martial Arts Fitness Center in Canyon Country 18 years ago, she knew she wanted more than a place for children to learn martial arts.
“I have been a firm believer in that since day one,” Bouciegues said. “I built the business because I watched my son when he was 7 go into martial arts, and it changed his life. So, I thought, ‘If I had the opportunity to do it, too, I could change a lot of kids’ lives.’”
While Bouciegues never expected she’d be closing the doors of the center permanently amid a pandemic, she believes she accomplished that goal over the years.
“Just knowing in my heart that each person that walked in that door took with them some type of a life lesson or some type of a very positive experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives is what made me do what I did,” she added.
Eighteen years ago, Bouciegues built the business from the ground up with the help of her family, and since then, the center had remained a resource to the Sulphur Springs Union School District, where she worked.
“We’ve done all of the after-school programs for the school district, and I donated all the money back to them,” she added. “And in the grand tally of things, it was very close to $100,000 that we donated. … I saw where that money went, and it made me feel good to see it (put to good use).”
When the Tick Fire forced families in her community to evacuate, Bouciegues opened up the center to donations to support them.
“It just took off, and we filled the studio with donations,” she said. “Then, I let the families come in one at a time and take anything they needed. … And at the end, we still have so much stuff, so I opened it up to anybody who was in need.”
Last month, when Bouciegues announced the center’s closure on social media, it was the outpouring of support from the community that let her know it was the right decision, allowing her to focus on her position as an instructional assistant in special education at Pinetree Community School.
“I wanted to end it on a good note,” Bouciegues said regarding the decision. “It was tough, but as much as I really hate to say it, some of it is a blessing. It allowed me to end this with my head up.”