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Local Team Heads to Nashville to Present Ali Kemp Educational (T.A.K.E.) Foundation Program at Vanderbilt University
POSTED: 03/17/2005
A team of eight from the Johnson County Park and Recreation District is heading to Nashville's Vanderbilt University on March 30 to present The Ali Kemp Educational (T.A.K.E.) Foundation Self Defense Program to sorority members.

The T.A.K.E. program was initiated locally in January 2004 as a means to fight the kind of violence that killed the 19-year-old Leawood woman after which the program is named. Kemp was strangled in June 2002 while working alone as a lifeguard at a subdivision pool. Since mid-2004 the program has been administrated by the District and officials estimate that in its first 14 months, the program has reached nearly 3,000 women and girls.

Corporate and Community Wellness Manager Jill Leiker, a professional self-defense trainer who manages the program and who will be leading the team to Vanderbilt, said she expected the program to be popular, but its quick growth has exceeded her expectations.

"We found out really quickly that we needed to add more classes, so we basically tripled our offering in order to meet the need in the first round of community classes," she said.

A breakthrough of sorts came when the program fulfilled a request to present the training to 150 members of a sorority at the University of Kansas in October of 2004.

"That was the first time we'd done that size of class," Leiker said. "(JCPRD Director) "Michael Meadors really said from day one that he envisioned seeing large groups of women in a gym and everybody doing this program. The concept of keeping the class size small in order to have one-on-one personal attention was where I thought it needed to go. But when we experienced the KU situation with 150 girls, Michael's vision really came to fruition because it worked. The key was keeping that same teacher-to-student ratio where people could still feel they were getting personal attention. The group dynamics of that many people doing the same thing was amazing."

When the community programs were offered again starting in January in this year, class sizes were upped to 125 per session in order to meet the continuing demand. In addition, Leiker said she has been receiving a growing number of requests to present the program for groups such as girl scout troops, schools, churches, corporations and sororities. To meet this demand, Jill has added a number of seasonal staff members to date, who she hopes will soon be able to present some of the smaller programs on their own.

Other members of the JCPRD team going to Vanderbilt include: Julie Sebby, JoAnn Miller, Drew Price, Rita Price, Bob Leiker, Jarrett Leiker, and Christy Deines.

In addition to about 150 Vanderbilt students, organizers anticipate a crew from the America's Most Wanted television show will be on hand during part of the program at Vanderbilt to tape for a future segment. Kemp's case was featured on the program several times prior to the arrest in November 2004 of a suspect and drew more viewer response than any in the program's history, Leiker said.

A web site was recently launched at to serve as a nationwide clearinghouse for defense classes. In addition, 3,000 posters have been produced and passed out to those who complete the program, including those at Vanderbilt, and one or two local billboards are planned.

This program is being presented by T.A.K.E. (The Ali Kemp Educational) Foundation in cooperation with the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, City of Leawood Parks and Recreation, and the Blue Valley Recreation Commission. The idea for the program was originally brought by representatives of the Kemp family to the local recreation agencies.

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