Eight months ago, our little engine that could, Lemonade - A Yoga Program, found out that we had - against the odds - received a community grant from Kaiser Permanente. We had the smallest budget of any that they reviewed. We had the smallest (read: mostly non-existent) staff. We almost didn't make it into the right category because several reviewers weren't sure that yoga qualified as physical exercise. And yet, we made it through the first round. And then the second.
I was waiting to get off a plane when the email came across my phone with the news.
WE GOT IT!!!! was my frantic text to my husband, who was sitting just a few rows up.
When I didn't think he was getting the text, I simply yelled right up the aisle:
WE GOT IT!!!! (Fist pumps included)
There were high fives all around from my seatmates, who were now intimately involved in my celebration.
We had worked so very hard to prove that we were capable of making it happen. This was our first grant from a large corporation that had no direct link to yoga.
It was a big victory. We felt heard. We felt supported.
The idea was simple. Let's double the classes for the boys in the hall. Let's see if they would do yoga twice a week. Let's find out if they would CHOOSE to come to an optional class.
In the first six months of this year, we taught 156 classes at Juvenile Hall, and 63 of them were made possible by this grant. We served over 200 youth.
Our evening classes have an 84% opt-in rate.
Our goal was 75%. And we thought it was a stretch.
These kids are CHOOSING yoga.
Our evening classes are bigger than our daytime classes. As it turns out, we were missing kids. Kids that were in for just a few days. Youth that had court or medical appointments.
Lots of things can happen when you give someone a chance.
The unexpected bonuses of the evening classes are many. Among them: we know the kids better, they are doing stronger asana, and they drop in to the practice more quickly.
In a strange and often sterile environment, there is an emerging comfort. We spend more time at the facility, so we have built better relationships with staff and management. As we integrate ourselves more into the schedule and flow of the days, we can more readily pick up the patterns and issues that affect our kids. We are a bigger part of the village.
Our Kaiser classes are not mandatory, and happen in the late afternoon or evening. In the midst of this chaotic world behind walls - where there are so little choices - teenagers are taking a chance on what we want to show them. They are rising to the occasion - into tougher arm balances, more focused themes, and deeper breathing.
This is the story of what happens when we give people a chance to thrive. Because we have support showing up for our organization, we are able to show up in a much bigger way for the youth that we serve.
We are a very small Non-Profit. We are big on love for these kids, and short on funds to make things happen. In the months since we received our Kaiser Grant, we have won additional funding, and are starting to dream bigger for what the next years hold for our program.
This is the story of every class we teach.
We want these kids to dream bigger. We want them to breathe bigger.
We want them to thrive.
So we show up. We take the chance.