On May 6, Wayland resident Sarah Gardner hopes to bring 1,000 people together for an all-day yogathon at Gillette Stadium.
It’s hard to believe Gardner, now a Lululemon ambassador, resisted even trying yoga about nine years ago when a friend presented it as an option.
”At first, I was like, ‘No way, I have to pound the pavement,’” said Gardner, a longtime runner who earned a Master’s of Education in health and fitness and went right into personal training after graduate school. “It took me awhile to understand the benefits and joy that come from [yoga]. Now it is not what I do, but who I am. I love every aspect of it.”
But going from personally understanding the benefits of yoga to hosting a yoga fundraiser for 1,000 people at Gillette Stadium didn’t happen overnight.
In addition to her work as a personal trainer, Gardner spent some time working with Landmark Education, a company that organizes and provides personal training and development in a variety of areas.
“What I got out of it was, it’s not about me,” Gardner said of her time with Landmark Education. “It’s how can I make a difference.”
One day a few years ago while driving down Route 128, an idea came to Gardner about how to make that difference.
“I want to have a yogathon at Gillette Stadium,” Gardner said she thought during that drive.
She began to share her idea with friends and family. Some, Gardner said, were incredulous and encouraged her to start smaller. Others, reacted differently.
“I had some people that really believed in the idea, and it became this amazing community,” Gardner said. Members of the yoga community, business community and many others jumped in to help.
From that seed of an idea sprouted Yoga Reaches Out, a charity Gardner founded with the goal of channeling her passion for yoga into an opportunity to support children’s charities of all stripes.
Gardner’s son, Will, was born 10 weeks premature. It was through the work of Children’s Hospital Boston and other organizations that her son has been able to grow up strong and healthy.
“I wanted to take my passion, which was yoga, and use that as the vehicle to give back and make a difference,” Gardner said. “It seemed like a perfect match for the yoga community and helping children in need.”
On Sept. 19, 2010, Gardner’s Route 128 dream became reality as 450 yogis gathered in the field house at Gillette Stadium for the first Yoga Reaches Out Yogathon. The event raised about $225,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston and the charity Yoga for Single Moms.
Now, two-and-a-half years later, Gardner is dreaming even bigger.
Already, about 700 individuals have registered for the next yogathon, which will take place May 6 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. back at the Gillette Stadium field house. Hopefully, Gardner said, that number will grow to 1,000 participants and will bring in $500,000 for this year’s charities: Children’s Hospital Boston and the Africa Yoga Project.
Internationally renowned yogi Baron Baptiste will lead a portion of the yogathon as will six well-known instructors from New England.
Ultimately, Gardner wants to see a single yogathon raise $1 million for charity, but singular huge events aren’t her only focus.
“The idea of the yogathon did come first,” Gardner said. “And then I realized that we could make a difference through smaller events through bringing the community together in all different ways.”
Yoga Reaches Out conducts about 10 classes each week at area studios, all of them raising money for charity.
“The feeling in the field house …. at the first yogathon was so beautiful because people got it,” Gardner said. “They got that they were there and really helping people at the same time. They were doing what they love to do and maybe saving someone’s life at the same time.”
Registration remains open for the May 6 yogathon. The registration fee is $25 and the minimum fundraising goal is $250. See the Yoga Reaches Out website for details.