Ask just about any four year old what he'd like for his upcoming birthday and you're likely to get a detailed rundown of the latest must-have items from the local toy store. But not from four-year-old Michael Ragosa.

Earlier this year, the young member of United TaeKwonDo, Manalapan, requested that in lieu of birthday gifts his friends donate to the Institute for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders. His interest stemmed from his awareness of United TaeKwonDo's efforts, where every year the organization works with Martial Arts with Hearts to raise money for a specific charity. This awareness prompted the young green belt to help those in need, ultimately raising $600 for the Institute.

“I was very surprised by Michael's thoughtful gesture,” says Bryan Klein, owner of United TaeKwonDo and co-founder of Martial Arts with Hearts, a nonprofit organization whose annual karate demonstrations benefit a key charity—most recently, the Institute. “To forgo gifts on his birthday to give to others demonstrated outstanding character and a level of maturity. It makes me very proud to call Michael Ragosa a student.”

The Institute for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders is a nonprofit organization that supports the nonmedical needs of children and their families at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, both on the Robert Wood Johnson medical campus in New Brunswick. According to the Institute's website, those needs include counseling, transportation and informative teaching sessions.

A June 2007 letter from the Institute recognized Michael's efforts, saying, “It is so moving to see such selflessness and heartfelt care for the needs of others in such a young child. We greatly appreciate your support of our mission to improve the lives of children facing cancer or a blood disorder.”

Michael's mother, Maria, agrees. “I am truly blessed,” she says. “To know that Michael wanted nothing more than to help others, and that Martial Arts with Hearts is just as passionate about giving as he is, really is something we are all grateful for.”

Because of Michael's efforts, the Ragosa family has decided that each year they will request donations towards Martial Arts with Hearts' annual charity in lieu of birthday gifts.

The next annual Martial Arts with Hearts fundraiser will take place January 27, 2008 at the Collins Arena on Brookdale Community College's Lincroft campus in Middletown, NJ. If you or someone you know is interested in attending, or would like to make a pledge towards this year's cause, autism research, please call Bryan Klein at 732-536-4797 or visit