THE SEAN O’SHEA FOUNDATION “YOGA 4 KIDS WITH CANCER” PROGRAM
By Gloria O’Shea
I remember many years ago when my oldest son was in a freak bike accident at the age of nine. He flipped over his bike and landed on the pointed side of the handle bar hitting his pancreas, which created a fast growing cyst. It was a very rare injury and the medical team at Children’s hospital was working with him 24/7 for 3 months. He had dwindled down to 60 pounds during that time in the hospital. Eventually when the cyst grew the size of a football it ruptured and the medical team rushed him into emergency for surgery. Today he is a 42 year old brut of a man and father of four.
The reason I shared this story is because during that time Fin’s father and myself were at the hospital 24/7 and our son was in the terminal ward because they just did not know if he would make it. I saw a lot on that ward…mostly children with cancer. I would walk around and read stories to them, hold babies and bring gifts to the children who were there for so long. It broke my heart to see such innocent life fighting this vicious disease. I wanted to do something for these beautiful children and I held that memory for many years until a few years ago after we had lost Sean and created the foundation.
Over three years ago I approached Phyllis Hartigan, one of Sean’s yoga student’s from the past that worked at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. We also worked together with the RCH Healthy Champions program bringing nutrition to our yoga students with the Sean O’Shea Foundation. I told Phyllis the story of my son Fin and asked if she thought we could bring yoga to the kids with cancer at RCH and whom could I talk to about it. Phyllis told me to give her a couple weeks to look into it and she would get back to me.
Two days later I received a phone call from Jeannie Spies who worked in the Oncology ward. Jeanie said they had just lost their yoga teacher/nurse who left to obtain her doctors degree and that my timing was perfect! We met for lunch and talked about how to go about bringing our yoga program to their young patients. Jeannie gave our Dream Team of yoga teachers a workshop so we would be better informed on the disease, the treatments, the after effects of the treatments and hospital policy. I might add that RCH offers a very intense and demanding orientation for all their volunteers. Within 3 months we were set, trained and ready to work with the “SOSF Yoga 4 Kids With Cancer” program at RCH.
Over three years now and we still work with the kids in oncology and their families. We visit three times per week and have offered nearly 1,500 hours thus far thanks to the SOSF “Dream Team” that you see pictured above.
Many thanks to our “Dream Team”-
Current Team: Irina Telyukova*, Liz Fautsch*, Julia Fukuhara, Melissa Eisler, Tahirih Linz, Rachel McNatty, Tiffiney Childress, and Carla Stockpalper.
Past Team - Effie Bastounis, Joy Bennett, Laci Chiodo, Brian Ruiz, Chris Orr, Teresa Austin, Peter Hurley, Rebecca Steiner, and the late Rich McGowan.
* Irina and Liz supervise the team and have been with this program from day one!
One of our favorite people, Rich McGowan, helped me get things rolling in the beginning. Rich was our “Yoga 4 Kids With Cancer” Captain. He helped organize and motivate the volunteers. He was a good friend to so many and a mentor as well. We lost Rich to cancer a couple years ago but the work he helped to start at Rady’s Children’s Hospital is still going strong.
FEATURED SCHOOL – SAN MARCOS ELEMENTARY
By Liz Fautsch
It’s not just a beautiful new building that makes San Marcos Elementary so special. Sure, the clean modern lines and light filled interior help, but the magic ingredient is the staff – from the helpful front desk staff to the principal, everyone is on the same page: kids come first. So simple, and yet too rare in a public education system that is just starting to recover from years of budget cuts, layoffs, and hiring freezes.
Principal Stephanie Wallace (in her 9th year at the school, 3 as vice-principal) says her favorite part of coming to work each day is seeing how much fun the kids are having at school. “When school can be a fun, engaging place for students they are more willing to learn and grow. I love how respectful and kind our students and the staffs are with each other… I look forward to each day and walking into classrooms to see students reading and working together. Teachers are very creative and provide unique lessons for students where they can shine.”
One of those unique lessons is the Sean O’Shea Foundation’s Mindfulness, Mat Yoga and Nutrition program, first introduced as an afterschool program three years ago. Last fall, Ms. Wallace included SOSF in a new program called “The Wheel”. Each morning of the week, one grade of teachers attends a professional development program related to the introduction of the Common Core curriculum. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5th and 4th grade students, respectively, attend a series of alternate morning classes that make up the “Wheel”, including technology, music and yoga.
Blue mats, chimes and mindfulness
The blue mats are laid out in the multipurpose room and music is playing as the first class arrives. By now, the kids know to take off their shoes, put their name tags at the top of their mats, and sit in easy pose for a minute or two of mindful breathing. With a few instructions and the sound of a chime, they close their eyes, focus in on the breath, and practice sitting still – still a challenge for a few, but getting better all the time!
The kids have mastered many of the basic poses, like tree, plank, downward dog and warrior II. But there is work to be done! Crow pose causes some to groan and others to furrow their brow in concentration. Sometimes, when the energy level is high, a quick “mat dance” followed by ten seconds of stillness resets the mood. With each class, students also learn a “Word of the Week” - beginning with Mindfulness in Lesson 1 - which is woven into the practice as well as into the short reflection period that ends the class. A nutrition lesson alternates every fourth week. The lessons also reinforce the three core “Tiger” values that are posted around the school: Be respectful, solve your problems, and make good decisions.
“The teachers say it is the students that they love most about SME,” asserts Wallace. “It is very rewarding to watch a student grasp concepts that were initially difficult and the process it took for the students to get to that level.” With a population that is 97% Hispanic, there are a number of English learners in every grade whose needs must be considered.
Stephanie Wallace – SME Principal Teachers Notice A Difference
The teachers are also noticing a difference in their classes on Yoga days. A fifth grade teacher noticed that“…my students get very excited for yoga. They come prepared and always report back what they are learning in yoga. My class works really well in group participation and cooperation. It definitely feels more Zen when they return from their yoga class.”
A fourth grade teacher noticed that students are able to relate what they learn in yoga to classroom concentration. “They are more aware of being still and [know] how to calm themselves down and create a quiet environment. I would say that they have more self-awareness as a result of yoga.”
Students have also commented on how the SOSF classes affect them. Christina says, "I feel confident on how I can improve on my body strength." Aylin likes "…how it relaxes me because I'm stressed and have a full plate." Anthony and Jonathan enjoy learning new poses, and Jonathan also likes “…how we learn words every week to respect people."
With 1010 students, SME has a strong record of parent involvement. “When we have events or activities we always have a wonderful turnout from our families,” says Wallace. “One example of this is our monthly Family Literacy Fridays. We usually have between 250-300 families attend a learning session in the morning and then spend some time reading to their children.”
“The school’s philosophy,” says Wallace, “is that it takes a village to teach a child. We have been so grateful that SOSF has been a part of our village over the past 3 years. We work hard to teach students how to live healthy lifestyles and SOSF fits perfectly into our vision. We love SOSF because it exposes our students to other forms of exercise, methods of calming down, and mindfulness that they would otherwise not know about.”
SEAN WAS A VERY THOUGHTFUL AND KIND NEIGHBOR
By Debra Bomar
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about myself and how it all began. I was a neighbor of Sean for many years and we became good friends. Sean was 16 years old when we first met. Sean was a very thoughtful neighbor, he would drop off flowers when he knew I was blue or he would make a point to come and chat before leaving for school or work. He would even come pick me up to take me to his Granny’s for dinner. Losing Sean was devastating for all of us.
When the Sean O’Shea Foundation was organized I wanted to make myself available to assist the Foundation but full time employment made it hard for me to get fully involved. Recently I retired and one of the first things on my list was to contribute more of my time to the Sean O’Shea Foundation.
In January 2014 I was voted in to the Sean O’Shea Foundation Board of Directors and now serve as the BOD Secretary. I am so glad to be part of the Sean O’Shea Foundation family and being able to continue to support Sean’s vision for the youth of our community. Sean is greatly missed but his friends, family and community all work hard to continue to make his vision a reality!
LOCAL SOSF AMBASSADORS ARE HELPING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
WHAT IS A SEAN OSHEA FOUNDATION AMBASSADOR
1. What is a Sean O’Shea Foundation Ambassador?
Our SOSF Ambassadors are representatives for SOSF to the public. They can be studio owners, yoga teachers or corporate teams.
2. What do the Ambassadors do?
SOSF Ambassadors offer yoga classes or workshops to their students as a benefit for the Sean O’Shea Foundation. The Ambassadors offer several classes or workshops throughout the year and donate the proceeds to our youth programs and scholarships for at-risk youth.
3. How do these Ambassadors represent the Sean O’Shea Foundation?
The Ambassadors serve as representative of SOSF by sharing our work with their community, attending SOSF events, seeking support for the cause and help to raise funds by offering yoga classes or workshops that benefit SOSF.
4. How does SOSF support and thank the Ambassadors?
Ambassadors and their fundraising events for SOSF are posted on our website, Facebook and in our bi-monthly E-newsletter. Teacher and owner receive a souvenir SOSF T-shirt, a SOSF window sticker saying, “We Support the Sean O’Shea Foundation, and they will receive SOSF informative pamphlets to share at their studio. Lastly, we invite the Ambassadors and supporters to an annual wine tasting party to meet the other ambassadors and supporters. Sean’s family really looks forward to this event each year.
Special thanks for our 2015 Ambassadors thus far:
Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center – Roots and Wings workshop- April 11
Heather Graff and GTO and Dang Good Yoga – March 14th…More to come
Leila Currah and Yoga Del Mar – Family Yoga, April 4, 2015
VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH – RACHEL MCNATTY
For the past 8 months, and counting, Rachel has been volunteering to teach at one of our elementary schools in San Marcos. Every week she shows up with a smile and eagerness to teach her students and spends at least 4 hours each week working with five different fifth grade classes. Rachel is patient and very loving with her students and the kids love her.
Thank you Rachel for joining our team and the Sean O’Shea Foundation family!
JOIN OUR CAUSE,
BE A VOLUNTEER
Join us by becoming a volunteer. There are many areas to work in such as volunteer teachers, volunteer as classroom assistants, committee members for events, fundraising, or youth programs and much more. Come to one of our bi-monthly group project meetings; the next one is scheduled for May 29th from 10-12 in Oceanside.
SOSF FALL WORKSHOPS FOR PARENTS
– MINDFUL PARENTING
Coming September 21ST and 28TH
October 5TH and 12TH.
Keep an eye out for more information and registration.
We still have a couple openings for presentations. Contact Gloria O’Shea if interested at: Namaste@seanosheafoundation.org