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Self-defense class to raise funds for family of Edwardsburg teen


A women’s self-defense workshop on Saturday will show support for Edwardsburg teen Ella Merrill and her family.

Zero Ego Jiu-Jitsu and Community Baptist Church in Edwardsburg teamed up for the event. It will take place in the church’s gym from 4-7 p.m. Saturday.

Participants will learn about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and practice techniques hands on. It's meant to help women gain confidence and learn defend themselves against a potential violent encounter.

The cost is $20. All the money raised will go to the family to use at their discretion.

The high school student beat the odds after suffering severe brain trauma from a car accident in December 2017.

Just this week, the teen was able to come home. Her story has brought the community together.

"I don't think there's a single person in the Edwardsburg area that isn't familiar with the story and has been praying for her and following the story,” said Casey Pielemeier, the owner and head instructor of Zero Ego Jiu-Jitsu. “So it goes to show that even in a larger area as South Bend, Granger, Mishawaka and Edwardsburg, you can still have small town values.”

Doctors originally told Merrill’s family she would likely remain in a vegetative state for the rest of her life. But when she started showing signs of recovery beyond what was expected, Pielemeier decided to use his skills to help the family out.

“Rather than just donate money to a cause I thought why don't we try to raise as much money as we can while celebrating women and empowering them," he said.

Pielemeier knew Merrill’s mother through the gym where he works.

“My daughter’s name is Ella as well so we’ve been following this story ever since December,” Pielemeier said.

He says with Merrill now at home, he is excited to celebrate her recovery through the self-defense workshop and support the family.

Pielemeier says they want to make the event as light-hearted as possible. Several businesses have helped out with the event and donated door prizes including Edwardsburg Fitness Company, Edward Jones in Buchanan and Playtime in Mishawaka.

Pielemeier asks that anyone interested in the event go to the Facebook event page here and click either “going” or “interested” so that he can gauge how many will attend.

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