Kozmo Rhyu raised money for FCCGW through fencing
Kozmo Rhyu, a 16-year-old from McLean, has been fencing for years — and it is something he sees himself continuing beyond his high school career. What Rhyu did not know is that his fencing would raise more than $25,000 for the Family Counseling Center of Greater Washington (FCCGW).
It took Rhyu mere months to raise the money — he had the idea for this fundraising opportunity in October 2020 and began the process in March 2021. He presented the donation to FCCGW September 7.
Rhyu first got the idea to raise money because he had heard mental health organizations were suffering financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FCCGW is a non-profit organization serving those in the DMV area to improve mental health services by providing counseling services and promoting awareness, according to the organization’s website.
He chose FCCGW to donate his fundraising efforts not only because of their mental health services but because they do so much for the Korean American community in particular.
“I also, as a Korean American, I know that in the Korean community especially, mental health has always been a stigmatized issue, said Rhyu. “So just, you know, basically, combining those two things together, I thought, why not start a fundraiser for the Family Counseling Center of Greater Washington ... so it’s just sort of like the perfect timing and I found the perfect organization for that.”
Cindy Han, chair of the board for FCCGW, echoed that mental health is a stigmatized issue in the Asian American community. “What we are trying to do is hopefully someday we can eradicate this stigma [so] people who need help can seek the help through the activities and places that can provide help for them,” she said.
Han also noted that the organization was thrilled to receive the donation, adding that “every penny” of Rhyu’s donation will help those who cannot afford services — or those who may encounter other issues receiving treatment due to language barriers.
Rhyu said that all of the donations he raised came from third party individuals.
“I contacted over 100 — you know, basically, anybody that I could contact family friends, friends, you know, from my fencing life, school life, other extracurriculars,” he said. “I basically reached out to anybody I could, and I sent them a pledge form, basically asking people to pledge a certain amount of money per point that I score in fencing competitions.”
Essentially, Rhyu asked that individuals make donations per point he scored — so if he scored one point, they could donate 10 cents per each point, he used as an example.
He said that he did have a goal in mind while beginning to raise funds — he just had no clue he would raise as much money as he eventually did.
“I didn’t know how successful the fundraiser would be. So I started off with the goal of $10,000. But about like halfway — after a few months of fundraising, I realized that the fundraiser had potential to raise more than that, so I sort of pushed it to $25,000. And I was able to reach that goal,” Rhyu said.
Once people learned about the fundraiser and interest was piqued, Rhyu said that he did not have much of a problem receiving donations.
“When I first had the idea in October, I didn’t really picture myself actually handing the check over to the organization,” he said. “It was just really satisfying when I did because the organization was so happy that someone in high school would really think of their organization and the Korean community and go out of their way to do that. So it was just very satisfying — it was a very satisfying moment.”
Rhyu has experience with other sports and extracurricular activities, but fencing is his true passion. He is a junior at St. Albans School, a private school in Washington, D.C., so most of his time is spent between schoolwork and fencing. When he can, he tries to rest.
Han explained that she is excited to stay in touch with Rhyu as the years pass, as she is impressed with his spirit of wanting to help others. “What an example that he can set — that he sets — for youth in our country, in our neighborhood, in our state and county,” she said.