Sarah Gardner raises money to aid children through Yoga Reaches Out

Her Yoga Reaches Out charity has held Yogathons on both coasts and collected more than $1 million to help children and their families.

By , Talking GOOD

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    'I truly believe we all have at least one brilliant gift,' says Sarah Gardner. 'Follow your passion, find out what that is, and then educate it, practice it, deepen it, and then give it away to make this world a better place.'
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A recent article in Forbes says that innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. It sounds cliché, but it stands to reason.

I wonder: Does a person who perspires a lot – say a personal trainer or certified yoga instructor – possess a greater capacity to transform innovative ideas into realities? I have no way of knowing, but after meeting Sarah Gardner, I’m inclined to say hell yes!

Sarah is indeed a personal trainer and yoga instructor, hailing from Wayland, MA (just west of Boston). She recalls driving down a major highway in 2009 and saying out loud, "I want to have a Yogathon at Gillette Stadium to help kids in need."

Recommended: Giving back: Eight innovative philanthropists around the world

For the sake of context, Gillette Stadium is the home of the New England Patriots. It’s a big venue. Up until that moment, Sarah had never spearheaded and organized a fundraising event in her life. (That moment in the car was the 1% of inspiration.)

Fast forward to Sunday, April 27, 2014, when more than 1,000 people will pack Gillette Stadium’s Dana Farber Fieldhouse for the Yoga Reaches Out (YRO) Yogathon benefiting Boston Children’s Hospital and Citizen Schools. Since Sarah’s first Yogathon in 2010, YRO has held annual Yogathons on both coasts, has raised more than $1 million, and distributed those funds to numerous organizations focused on helping children and their families. (These last two sentences … these describe the 99% perspiration.)

In a 2012 article, Sarah spoke about her motivation and purpose.

“I started YRO to bring the yoga community together to create seva [selfless service]. If we can take the power of yoga and direct it toward helping children in need, then what we practice on our mat is taken off the mat to truly make a difference in the lives of others. It’s simple, helping children in need is my main goal and the mission of YRO.”

Sarah believes “we all have at least one brilliant gift,” which she encourages people to give away in order to make this world a better place. Undoubtedly, she has figured out which of her gifts needs to be shared. In Sarah’s bio it says that “Yoga Reaches Out has brought her profound purpose and deep joy.”

What else could anyone want?

• Visit Yoga Reaches Out

The 10 questions

IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?

There is no greater joy than helping others, and when I realized that was my purpose, life became so clear, so simple.

HOW HAS THIS WORK CHANGED YOU?

Without a doubt I have never worked harder, but I have never been happier. It took me 40 years, but I realized that it is not about me. It's about making a difference in the lives of others. This work has shown me what is most important in this world, and it has brought great clarity and purpose in every aspect of my life.

WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING?

What I get from giving is happiness. We all spend so much time looking for happiness. Thinking it can be found in material goods, greener grass, etc., but what is so beautiful is when you realize that complete happiness is found by giving of yourself to help others. I truly believe we all have at least one brilliant gift. Follow your passion, find out what that is, and then educate it, practice it, deepen it, and then give it away to make this world a better place. Share your gift to help others.

WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE?

My living heroes are children and their families who spend every day battling a health condition with hope, grace, and resilience. They show us what is truly important.

WHAT EVERYDAY RESOURCES COULD HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC GOALS?

The power of connection. I would love to know of ways that like-minded service-oriented people could connect to help each other. Social media has been phenomenal in spreading the mission of YRO and our events ,and it would be fantastic to grow that networking into connecting with corporate sponsorship, fellow yogis that are focused on  seva, and connecting deeper with the yoga community.

WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY?

I would love to ask the yoga community: What is more important to you: doing yoga or being yoga? Yoga is so much more than the postures. I honestly feel that you don’t do yoga, you are yoga. You live a life of being present, a life of compassion, a life of light-heartedness, a life of service.

WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?

"Take the Ordinary and Make it Extraordinary." One of the greatest shifts in my life is when I chose to appreciate all that I have in my life, instead of wishing it was something different. I began to be so grateful for all that I have and then realized I didn’t need anything more.

TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC?

I married my college sweetheart a year after I graduated. It was everything I could have dreamed of. I wore my grandmother’s wedding gown, all my friends and family were there, and it was a beautiful day to begin my “forever” future. Four months later, my husband said that it was not what he wanted. As difficult as it was, it turns out that it was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I learned two life-changing things: one, that I loved Sarah, and two: that you never know in life. Be present and open to what life may bring you.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS?

My advice would be that every person is possibility; every person can make a difference. Don't feel that any dream is too small or too big. Focus your attention on letting go of fear. It is the No. 1 obstacle. I remember driving down a major highway in my area and thinking out loud, "I want to have a Yogathon at Gillette Stadium to help kids in need." I wasn't afraid to try, even if some encouraged me to start smaller. I have learned in life that you must not "mind" what happens. Open your heart, follow your dreams, and know that if your intention is to be of service you will find your way.

WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

QUESTION: If you could go back and change things in your life would you? ANSWER: I actually wouldn’t. Each challenge in my life has taught me something and helped me to grow into a better person. I firmly believe that you have to go through it to get through it. No matter where you are in your life, it is where you are supposed to be.

This article was originally posted at Talking GOOD, a series of interviews with “citizen philanthropists” who champion causes and lead by example. To nominate someone for a Talking GOOD interview, visit this link.

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