Kidpower Chicago

Joe Connelly, Kidpower Chicago Director

Kidpower Chicago, also known as Kidpower Great Lakes, was established in 1991 by Martial Artists Joe Connelly and Anne Mason to serve the greater Chicago area, offering self-protection and ‘People Safety’ skills training to people of all ages and abilities through private and community workshops, corporate-sponsored events, organizations, and schools. Joe also serves Kidpower International organization as a Senior Program Leader.

Kidpower Chicago offers bullying and abuse awareness and prevention programs that can be done for large groups in a presentation format while remaining interactive and hands-on. We provide community workshops as well as programs designed for specific organizations and their populations. Kidpower concepts and skills are part of the children’s martial art curriculum at Connelly’s Academy, actively serving more than 1,000 children and their families through community and school programs in Chicago and the northern suburbs at any given time.

Safety is for everyone! The Kidpower materials can be tailored for special-needs populations and people facing difficult life challenges that place them at increased risk for violence or abuse. Kidpower Chicago has provided quality, long-term programming to local therapeutic colleges, high schools and hospitals.

You and your associates are to be commended not only for your professionalism, knowledge of your field and expertise, but also for your gentleness and sensitivity with the children. It came across as real caring, and even love.” – Irene Doyle Sandler, President, Mental Health Association of Evanston

Renth coaches Kai to stop Joe from bullying in a demonstration at LEGOLAND Chicago.


Experiential Success-Based Learning
Our approach is based on the understanding that people learn more by doing than by talking about doing. Our goal is to give students the opportunity for successful practice of each idea presented. This experience builds effective beliefs and puts skills into students’ bodies as well as their minds.

After completing the course, I was thrilled with all I learned, but was afraid I might not retain the skills. The theory of ‘you do what you practice’ is accurate and [in a recent situation] I did exactly what we practiced in class. I was prepared to use the tools necessary to keep myself safe. I think that everyone should participate in this training. It is obvious to me that these situations are a part of the society we live in, and everyone should learn to take action when they happen.

Kidpower for Kids
Individually tailored role plays give children practice of Everyday Safety skills appropriate for their specific ages, personalities, and life situations. Also offered is Emergency Only Full Force physical defense skills with a head-to-toe padded instructor, which is available for children ages 6 and up. All programs are taught in an effective, upbeat, and emotionally safe manner.

Teenpower for Teens
Because of their increasing independence, teens need tools to deal with verbal attacks, peer pressure, harassment as well as assaults from strangers and acquaintances.

Fullpower for Adults
Programs that give women and men the opportunity to practice taking powerful action in the face of trouble. Students learn how to protect their personal boundaries, how to de-escalate a threatening confrontation, and how to fight off a potential attacker.

Special Programs
Kidpower Chicago forms partnerships with organizations that serve people in high-risk situations so that special programs can be developed to fit their particular needs. We have conducted Seniorpower programs for the elderly, culturally appropriate bilingual workshops, self protection training for people facing physical challenges such as being blind or deaf, workshops for the developmentally disabled, and self-defense for people dealing with mental health issues. Our goal is to build bridges so that our work can be accessible to everyone who needs to learn these skills.

Last week I was in a retail store shopping, when a man approached me and began behaving in a lewd and offensive manner. I moved away to another part of the store, and this man proceeded to follow me. He continued this intimidating behavior while moving closer to me. I was then able to use the tools acquired from the Fullpower class to set a clear and effective boundary with my voice and physical stance. This attracted the attention of the security personnel who then escorted the man out of the building.

Our Team

Joe Connelly
Regional and Center Director
Joe Connelly is a 7th Degree Black Belt Martial Arts educator. His Martial Arts Academy, Connelly’s Academy, provides 23 community-based programs, serving 600 students on a weekly basis. He has designed and taught programs that empower populations with special needs since 1981. He is a special consultant to National-Louis University’s PACE Program and Keshet/Gadol. His background includes 15 years of work experience in business education with IBM and The Fortune Group International, a training firm serving Fortune 1000 companies. Joe has an MS in Human Services from National-Louis University.

Anne Mason
Anne Mason received her BS from Michigan State University in Earth Sciences and Mathematics and did her graduate work in Systems Project Management. She is a systems consultant to the construction industry. Anne is a 4th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and a Program Leader in Connelly’s Academy, working mainly with elementary school children. She has designed and supervises martial arts programs for Special Needs populations. She has been a certified, full-force self defense and Kidpower instructor since 1990. She was one of the original center heads for Kidpower Chicago and is now active as an instructor, teaching supervisor and trainer. Anne is also a licensed massage therapist and Certified Structural Therapist.

Suzanne Burns
Suzanne earned a BA in Child and Family Development. Her background includes caring for children and adolescents with behavioral problems in residential facilities as well as serving as a Student Life Instructor at the PACE Program at National-Louis University. At the PACE Program, Suzanne coordinated activities for college aged students with multiple learning disabilities.

Cecelia Keleher
Cecelia Keleher is an effective Kidpower instructor who is certified in programs for all ages, from preschool to seniors. In addition to being a Kidpower instructor for over 15 years, Cecelia is a senior Human Resources Manager who has experience in training and change management. She has brought the Kidpower training into corporate organizations as a family benefit to employees, as well as to enhance the development of corporate employees. Cecelia is currently a Senior Manager in HRIS and continues to be a strong advocate and trainer for the Kidpower organization – partnering with groups to bring this positive training to various communities.

Sterling Goodrich
Originally from California, Sterling Goodrich has been teaching self-defense internationally to people of all ages since 1992, and as a Kidpower Chicago presenter and padded instructor since 1996. He has a 5th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Hapkido. Sterling has developed and managed teams providing engaging, and often life-saving, after-school programing for at-risk youth for nonprofit organizations in Chicago for nearly two decades, partnering with Second City and many other organizations to give kids a safe and fun respite from difficult life situations. He earned his Master’s degree in Entertainment Business Leadership, and his BA in Communications, from Northwestern University and has a strong background in entertainment, corporate communications, and community not-for-profit work. He is also bilingual in English and Spanish.

Timothy Peebles
Tim Peebles is a graduate student in theology at the University of Chicago, a home schooling father and a Tae Kwon Do practitioner and program leader. He does church-related community development work with at-risk youth, using Tae Kwon Do and Kidpower. He received his Kidpower instructor training in January 2009. Since then, he has been apprenticing as a workshop and padded-suit instructor with senior Kidpower staff.


Thank you for being so flexible and tolerant of our families’ unique needs and circumstances.
– The Support Services Committee, Children’s Memorial Hospital

The Kidpower Program is the type of violence prevention leadership training that should be accessible for all Illinois youth.”
– MacArthur Antigua, YouthPeace Coordinator, Illinois Council for the Prevention of Violence

The information and skills acquired from this 2-hour training were invaluable and incredibly eye-opening.
– Angela M. Johnson, Health Educator, University of Illinois at Chicago

“I want to extend my highest praise for the excellent services you and your staff offer for children and families. Our employee’s evaluations of Kidpower have been superlative, and I have recommended the program to many other business leaders. From a business standpoint, we feel that programs like yours help give employees the peace of mind and support they need to be more productive workers.
– Scott Mies, CCI Information Services

“Thank you for coming to our Take Your Child to Work program. I would definitely recommend your Kidpower session to any individual or corporation that is looking for a positive program that not only entertains, but educates.”
– Tekla Pedigo, Communications Administrator, Avon Products, Inc.

“Your workshop was quite a success here. All of the participants gave you great reviews and are asking for more.”
– Stephanie Loos, Fitness Specialist, Ameritech Wellness Center

“The students were extremely enthusiastic in talking about what they had learned with their fellow employees, and, without exception, felt that they had benefited enormously by the experience.”
– Arthur L. Goldberg, Controller & Chief Financial Officer, ELEK-TEK, Inc.

The participants couldn’t have been more pleased with your program in its entirety.
– Jackie Schanlaber, Fitness Specialist, Kraft General Foods, Inc.

It is such a wonderful opportunity and a very powerful experience; I can’t say enough about it.
– Marla Dwyer, Northwestern University

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