The founder, a parent and a patient: Three yogis who are giving back

Yoga family
Anabelle, Bill and Jaime MacDonald

Yoga instructors and practitioners from New England and around the globe come together every year for Yoga Reaches Out. The day-long gathering inspires and unites participants in a day of selfless service or “seva” benefitting families and children.

Now in its eighth year, Yoga Reaches Out has donated over 1.3 million dollars to help fund Boston Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the Heart Center, leukemia research, autism research, a playground, key research and the Wellness Program. Offering free services like yoga and meditation, The Wellness Program is a place for families to gain the strength, resilience and hope they need as their children go through the toughest tests of their young lives.

Read the stories of three yogis giving back this year.

Sarah Gardner: Mother and founder of Yoga Reaches Out

Photo credit: Tracy Rodriquez

I first started yoga after I had my kids, when I was looking for a form of exercise with a spiritual component. It took me awhile to get into the flow, but then I absolutely fell in love with it and became a teacher myself.

Yoga is not about what you do; it’s about who you are. It’s a beautiful place to be. Yoga changed every part of my life.

Back in 2010, I was driving down Route 128, thinking about this journey I’d been on through yoga and it hit me: I want to have a yogathon at Gillette Stadium. I wanted the event to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital because my son Will, now 17, was born ten weeks prematurely and was cared for by a team at Boston Children’s while he was in the NICU. When your child’s life is saved, you just want to say thank you and give back in any way you can.

This is now our eighth year of Yoga Reaches Out at Gillette Stadium and our first year as a signature event for Boston Children’s. I still get to do all the parts that I love the most, but an incredible community of professionals will make it bigger and more unbelievably successful.

I believe when you pour your heart into something and you educate and nurture and love it, then there comes a point when you are meant to pass it on; to give it wings.

Jaime MacDonald: Mother and instructor at Universal Power Yoga

Mother and daughter do yoga

My whole family loves yoga. Our 3-year-old daughter Anabelle was born with an unnamed genetic abnormality and has been cared for at Boston Children’s ever since. Because there are no other known cases of her chromosomal deletion, we didn’t know how she would develop. She was inpatient for a week and there were many other weeks where we’d have eight appointments in a single week.

During that time of unchartered waters, I don’t know what I would have done without yoga, especially the mental aspect of the practice. I always felt like I should be doing something more or differently, but yoga reminded me that I was doing the right thing and enough. I was doing the best I could. I remember our doctors at Boston Children’s telling us we were awesome parents and I really clung to that every single time. That was the best.

After multiple surgeries and procedures, Anabelle is thriving and so happy. We’re still wrapping up a few things with her gastrointestinal system, but she is doing phenomenal. You wouldn’t know she has any delays or issues.

David Vendetti: Patient, emcee and co-owner of South Boston Yoga

Man doing yoga with dog after hip surgery
Photo credit: Susan Currie

After years of mild lower back and hip pain, I was diagnosed with femoral acetabular (FAI) or hip impingement in both of my hips and underwent two arthroscopic hip surgeries at Boston Children’s. I feel so much clearer about how to take good care of my body, listen to it and respect its needs. I’m in a great place now and I’m also really grateful to have had this experience. It taught me that surgery can be an important component of holistic medicine and it helps me be a better teacher by supporting students who may be going through something like this.

I’m so honored to participate in Yoga Reaches Out every year. It’s an epic day benefitting the amazing kids and families and caregivers of Boston Children’s. A thousand yogis come together for an inspirational day of yoga and music to help bring resources and healing to others. Especially right now, we need to keep loving, keep connecting and taking action to make things better. We need to take care of each other and keep building the world we want to live in. We can do this together.

Learn more about Yoga Reaches Out.