Feb 29, 2016 02:44PM
● By Lee Walker
At YogaCAN 2016, expect to feel palpable love and concern even in the available spaces between yoga mats. From its inception in 2013, this event has demonstrated the power of community support for the families and individuals that receive financial assistance from the Cancer Alliance of Naples (CAN). Co-founded by Dr. Joel Waltzer, a Naples dermatologist and greenmonkey Yoga Studio (formerly BV Yoga), YogaCAN was sparked by a moment of grace.
In 2013, Waltzer’s wife, Jane, underwent extensive chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatment for a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. One morning during a particularly difficult time in Jane’s treatment, she felt graced and shared her thoughts with her husband. “Jane told me, ‘We are the lucky ones. I’m fortunate to have you and we are blessed to have the financial resources, as well as a supportive family to deal with these challenges. Other’s don’t,’” recalls Joel.
Jane’s sense of gratitude foreshadowed events that followed that same morning. “A letter to the editor in the Naples Daily News caught my attention. A man living with cancer wrote it. The author was a client of the Cancer Alliance of Naples and was expressing his gratitude to them for paying his bills while he was too sick to work. Thanks to CAN, an organization I had not yet heard of, he and his family had not lost their home,” advises Waltzer.
“For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people's love and concern for each other.” ~ Millard Fuller
Hours after reading about CAN, Waltzer walked to the greenmonkey yoga studio, where he and Jane practice. On the mat, Waltzer conceived an idea for a grassroots fundraising event for CAN, which he discussed with Kiersten Mooney, the studio owner, teacher and his friend. Mooney enhanced the fundraising idea (JaneCAN) by donating studio space and teaching time for the greenmonkey yoga community. Months later, 200 enthusiastic yogis appeared on-site, unrolled their mats and readied themselves for a yoga class. The climax was a generous outpouring of $30,000 in donations—a combination of individual contributions, silent auction sales and local vendor sales.
“This amazing demonstration of community filled the studio and our hearts. The overflow of people practiced in the parking lot,” says Mooney, who, along with Waltzer, decided that YogaCAN 2015 would be opened up to other local yoga communities. The potential attendance led Mooney and Waltzer to enlist the assistance of the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, which generously contributed refreshments and their lawn for 300-plus yogis, that in turn donated $60,000—every dollar of which goes to the individuals and families in Collier and Lee county that CAN supports.
“We are an entirely local nonprofit formed in 2002 by a group of volunteers who were passionate about filling the need in the community for assistance to cancer-stricken families and individuals whose lives were being turned upside-down financially and emotionally. Annually, we help approximately 125 families, including children of low-income single parents and children with cancer (referred to CAN from Golisano Children’s Hospital) through the most difficult times anyone could imagine. Facing a world of unknowns and forced to make life-changing medical decisions, as well as dealing with mounting pressures of everyday living expenses, CAN helps when there is no where else to turn,” says CAN Director Jodi Bisogno.
Naples Yoga Center and Yoga Loft join greenmonkey to host YogaCAN 2016 on Apr. 3 at Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, 851 Gulf Shore Blvd., in Naples. The lawn opens at 10 a.m. Class begins at 11 a.m. Silent auction from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information on Cancer Alliance of Naples, contact 239-643-4673 or visit NaplesCancer.com.