By Wendy Hunter
Yoga Buddies is a brand-new program presented by Parkland Buddy Sports, a 501(c) 3 that has been providing fee-free programs for children and young adults with special needs, physical or emotional, since 2002. Wendy Zipes Hunter, a yoga enthusiast for over 20 years and Board member for Parkland Buddy Sports, brought the concept of Yoga Buddies to the board, and the idea was met with overwhelming enthusiasm.
Partnering with Fusion Fitness and O2 Yoga, a locally owned and operated boutique fitness and yoga studio in Coral Springs, was a “no brainer,” says Zipes Hunter, who practices yoga at the studio and can attest to the life-changing benefits that come from regular yoga practice. “Co-owners Andi Boddie and Debbie Wolff are community minded women who believe in giving back. It made sense to partner with Fusion and to have their instructors lead our Yoga program,” says Zipes Hunter. “Our shared philosophy of giving back to the community align seamlessly.”
“Teaching yoga to the special needs population was a both an exhilarating and humbling experience,” says Amy Kenney, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, yoga instructor at Fusion Fitness and O2 Yoga and the instructor at Yoga Buddies. “Seeing how many volunteers came out and the joy in the faces of the participants was incredible. In a balance pose one of the buddies yelled, ‘It’s working…the yoga is working!’ It was also humbling for me to watch these eager students practicing what they could in that moment with joy. That is true yoga.”
Parkland resident Debbie Wolff was left feeling in awe of the children and families on opening day. “That we can bring what we do at Fusion into our community to such a worthy program was an amazing feeling and one that I will not soon forget,” says Wolff. “A common saying about yoga is that it’s not about touching your toes, but what you learn on the way down. This program exemplified a true yogic experience… and boy, did I learn a lot.”
Now in its sixteenth season, Parkland Buddy Sports began as a community partnership with the City of Parkland to provide quality sport programs for special needs children and young adults and volunteer opportunities for typical teens. The games are structured in an organized environment void of physical, social and cultural barriers to cultivate the feeling of an even playing field. The emphasis is on having fun, making friends and not about who wins or loses. Volunteers, both students and adults, learn patience, tolerance and how important their commitment is to another human being.
With Yoga Buddies, the program now has eight activities it provides to hundreds of families from all parts of South East Florida including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. For more information, visit www.parklandbuddysports.org.