Finding a Silver Lining and Creating Hope

We are inspired by those who have a vision and manifest it to reality. These are the ones who have found their rhythm in life and create magic, like Claire Petretti Marti. She gave hope to a community and to a cause in the midst of her own battle. Here's her story...

by Claire Petretti Marti

Challenging times often come with a silver lining. For me, breast cancer led to co-creating the largest yoga fundraiser in Southern California: Yoga for Hope San Diego.

In 2010, I was manifesting my dreams - writing and teaching yoga and living with the love of my life. Everything changed overnight when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.

Throughout treatment, I continued to teach yoga with a few tweaks to my schedule to recuperate from chemotherapy’s brutal side effects. Yoga kept me balanced. One of my students, who was a City of Hope’s women’s council member, recommended me as the perfect person to help create a new local fundraiser, Yoga for Hope.

Inspired by Hope

I wasn’t familiar with City of Hope, but when I learned their credo 'There is no profit in curing the body if in the process we destroy the soul', I was intrigued.

When I visited City of Hope and witnessed how they treat the WHOLE PERSON, whether they are dealing with cancer, HIV/Aids or Diabetes, I was inspired. I’ve lost two brothers to Aids and my sister and I are breast cancer survivors so, City of Hope’s work touched me on the deepest level.  

First, I met with Robyn Hima, the San Diego Development Director. Our vision was simple: a morning of yoga and inspiration to raise awareness for how yoga helps those with life-threatening illnesses and to raise funds for City of Hope. Our concept included a master yoga class in a beautiful outdoor setting, an inspirational speech from a survivor, along with a wellness expo.

Next, I approached yoga teachers Stacy McCarthy, Tim Miller, Michael Fukumura and Bonnie Saldivar-Jones. Much to my joy, these esteemed, well-loved leaders in the community all said yes! I was thrilled to teach with them, my cancer diagnosis acting as a “fast-track” to teaching with the best in San Diego. I’ll take that silver lining.

Finally, Robyn suggested a beautiful addition: a bell ringing ceremony intended to honor those impacted by cancer. This ceremony is a hallmark of Yoga for Hope and one of the most powerful, emotion-invoking elements of the event. The harmonizing melody pulls together the yoga community and creates a peaceful, balanced space to start class.

The event was truly grass roots. Ellie Levine of COH and I personally approached almost every yoga studio in town. I shared my vision of the yoga community joining together to celebrate the power of yoga to help those battling life-threatening illnesses. I feel incredibly honored that our passion for this cause took flight and so many joined together to fight as one.

Honoring Another

The most bittersweet element to the first event’s launch was the participation and passion of Dino Flacco, the owner of Haute Yoga. When I first met with Dino, he confided he’d recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer. Without his incredible strength and energy, the event would not be what it is today. Haute was amazing: they raised thousands of dollars with donation classes. For the inaugural event, 130 Haute yogis descended from party buses to practice together. Dino’s impassioned speech that morning is forever etched in all of our hearts.

Dino lost his battle with cancer later that year. Now, an integral part of the event is honoring the top fundraiser with the Dino Flacco Fundraising Award.

Hope Has Grown

That first year was magic: we flew by the seat of our pants and created an amazing morning. Each year, we’ve continued to grow and starting in Year 3, we’ve held the event in Petco Park, the Padres stadium. 

Stacy, Michael and I remain as the core instructors, each year bringing in another teacher to keep the class fresh. In Year 3, Ellie and I approached my personal yoga role model, Seane Corn: a trailblazing crusader and world-renowned leader. She said YES and her heartfelt teaching touched everyone deeply.

One constant is change and in another bittersweet shift, my collaborator, Ellie, moved to San Francisco. Fortuitously, a dear friend and fellow survivor, Amanda Nixon, took over. Her passion and dedication made the transition seamless and she’s instrumental in the continued success of Yoga for Hope.

For me, co-creating this event has been rewarding beyond my wildest imagination. I’m honored to be a part of it.

photos courtesy Epic Photojournalism 

Claire Petretti Marti is an E- RYT yoga instructor, a 5-year breast cancer survivor, author of Come Ride with Me Along the Big C, creator of Yoga for Cancer Recovery DVD and other online yoga classes. You can learn more about Claire at www.oceansoulyoga.com.

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