FORDLAND, Mo. – Students at a gym in Fordland line up in rows before each lesson.
In the front row, one of the smallest students, Lucas "The Tiger" Glover, leads the group in prayer.
At 6 years old, Lucas outranks most of his G+G Martial Arts classmates.
Lucas thanks God for the opportunity to learn about the sport he loves. He prays for the safety of his teammates before the kicks start to fly. And he makes sure to pray for a Kentucky girl he's never met.
Julia Shipp — a 16-year-old from Elizabeth, Kentucky — was hit by a drunk driver on the night of Oct. 13. She, along with another passenger, was rushed to the hospital with severe injuries.
Shipp broke her ribs, pelvis, hips and spine during the crash. She also fractured her skull and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
All Lucas knows is his teammate is hurt and needs his support.
“He has a heart at 6 years old that, in most kids, I've never seen,” Lucas' mom, Lacey Glover, said. “He's never even met her, but every time he goes out, he remembers to fight for her and give her strength as much as possible.”
Both Lucas and Julia are part of Team Heartland, an all-ages team of taekwondo fighters across the country.
Already a decorated fighter — having over 100 different awards — Lucas is preparing for an evaluation that will make him a black belt by February. Through his preparation, he's also fighting for his teammate.
“I want her to get better,” Lucas said.
Team Heartland uses the hashtag #FightForJulia to raise awareness as the team raises money for her medical bills. A GoFundMe campaign has collected more than $7,500.
After more than five weeks spent in the hospital, Julia returned home the day before Thanksgiving.
For now, she uses a wheelchair while pins and rods in her hips help her bones heal.
She hopes her doctors will sign off on physical therapy soon, so she can start to learn to walk again.
Julia told the News-Leader in a phone interview that she's watched videos of Lucas on his Facebook page. She's a big fan of his mohawk. She also finds it amazing how he can care so much about someone who he's never met.
Julia said if she met him, she'd give him a big hug.
"He's so strong and I'm so proud of him because he's supporting me and I just think he's going to be a really good kid when he grows up," Julia said. "It just makes my heart warm."
She uses the life lessons she was taught through martial arts, along with the support of her many teammates and donors to keep fighting her own battle.
"It really touches my heart and it encourages me to keep going," Julia said. "I really want to meet these people and I want to meet them standing up and walking."