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Martial arts students remember fallen friend

Union Leader Correspondent

March 14. 2014 9:38PM
Students and staff from ATA Martial Arts of Southern New Hampshire recently presented a check to volunteers and staff at the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in memory of their friend and classmate, Joshua Savyon. (COURTESY)

BEDFORD — Joshua Savyon may have had a strong mind and a strong body, but he also had a soft spot in his heart for neglected and unwanted animals.

Now, seven months after Joshua, 9, was shot and killed by his father during a supervised parental visitation at the YWCA office in Manchester, the child's legacy is living on through his passion for pets.

Joshua's friends at ATA Martial Arts of Southern New Hampshire were motivated to do something to remember Joshua, a dedicated student at the school who worked hard to obtain his black belt in taekwondo.

The group, spearheaded by Mark and Suzy Harbinson, was able to raise $5,000 to donate to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford, a place that Joshua loved, according to those who knew him best.

"Joshua loved the League, asking on his last birthday for donations for the animals instead of presents for himself. So, when he died, the family asked that memorial contributions go the League," says a release from the Bedford organization.

ATA Martial Arts hosted Dollars for Doggies, a board break-athon to raise money for the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire. Martial arts students were encouraged to break as many boards as they could in one minute, collecting dollars for the dogs during each attempt.

"The animals at the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire are the lucky beneficiaries of a sad, sad situation. They may not be able to remember Joshua, but we can," said Paula Mattis, president and CEO of the Animal Rescue League.

In addition to raising $5,000, the group also donated several supplies to the local animal shelter. Students, along with Joshua's mother, Becky Ranes and her husband, Ben, distributed a check and donations to the organization last weekend.

"I was awestruck at the community surrounding Becky and her family as they grapple with this great loss," Mattis said in a statement. "The ATA students, staff and family worked hard at doing something that was worthy of Joshua's memory."

In his honor, the League will be planting a granite paver at the shelter to memorialize and remember Joshua, according to Mattis.

As an ongoing tribute to her son, Ranes also intends to start a scholarship fund for young people who volunteer their time at the League.

According to a release, the League's mission is to improve animal welfare in local communities by helping pets and the people who care for them. The League's services are open to all New Hampshire residents, and provides assistance to more than 20 communities.

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