It was the spring of 2012 when I saw a video link on a random Facebook page about a yoga class at San Quentin. One little click, man, it can change everything. As soon as I viewed the video, I was typing James Fox’ name into Google, trying to find out how I could do what this man was doing. The next training for The Prison Yoga Project was in LA. I signed up, attended, received a new perspective on my purpose, and here we are with Root to Rise Inc, just one year later.
I was worried about starting a program for prisoners in Oklahoma. My home is the reddest state in the nation and the buckle of the Bible belt, and this gave me concern for how helping offenders would be perceived. However, in true Okie fashion, as soon as word got around that I had this plan, kindness popped up. Folks supported me and quickly spread the word. Yoga mat donations poured in, along with praise. My friend and fantastic attorney, Tina, hooked me up with the volunteer programs coordinator at the Department of Corrections. He met with me, and he was all for my agenda, even contacting facilities on my behalf and making time to attend my meetings with the wardens. Less than two months after my training with James, I was teaching classes at Hillside Correctional Facility (now Kate Barnard Correctional). I had told James I was going to start a nonprofit. Now that I had this first step going, it was time to get the rest in motion.
The more research I conducted on how great yoga and mindful awareness was in healing survivors of trauma, the more I realized I needed to expand my vision. I read about how many members of our military return from war to go into an [understandable] tailspin that ends in jail time or suicide. I saw firsthand how severe Post Traumatic Stress affected the life of a man I cared about, and the Veterans Yoga Project became the next training on the list. My CrossFit compadre, Army veteran, and overall good buddy Patrick McCright approached me about starting a class for the members of his 45th Infantry unit. When he spoke of these men and women and what they were going through, his passion for improving their lives was contagious. He has worked his ass off in developing a class that I currently teach at the National Guard Training Center in Oklahoma City. I also recently began a class for homeless veterans at the Oklahoma City VA.
I shifted the focus of the nonprofit from that of only assisting inmates to making it as far-reaching as possible. The mission statement is purposefully worded to serve a broad range of people. In the future, I plan to get into more correctional facilities, homes for abused women, tribal community groups, and anything that helps kiddos develop into the best adults possible. More future goals are to enable driven students of the classes to attend teacher trainings funded by the organization, so they can continue this work, have a marketable skill, and take Root to Rise Inc as far as it will go. National? Global? No biggie. We got that.
The idea for the organization’s name came from a cue my inspirational yoga instructor says when we rise from a forward fold…I loved the sound of it, and its application to getting out of the funks in life was perfect for the people I intended to serve.
And, finally, this organization wouldn’t have gotten off the ground near as quickly if it weren’t for the unsolicited, pure kindness of Denise Duckworth. Her donation for the IRS filing fee was a game-changer. And, that’s truly what she is in this world.
I couldn’t have gotten IRS approval so quickly – three months ahead of schedule – were it not for Karli, my friend and the founder of One Love Worldwide. She’s the busiest lady around, yet still found time to assist me with endless forms and my dumb questions. The Board of Directors, Officers, and constant supporters of this organization are the type of people we all strive to be. How fortunate I am to know this kind of love.