I was speaking with Sapna Dayal, Executive Director of Imagine1Day over Skype in January of this year. I had been playing with the idea of joining their next April service trip since this past November. I remember getting really honest and telling her that the dollar amount to raise really scared me, scared me to a point of a major lean to ‘no’. Yet, something in me knew this was the time, this was the trip, this was the challenge and service space for me right now.
She was understanding and somewhat curt. I wonder how many maybe’s she deals with on a regular basis. With a commitment to build schools and leadership training in a country ready to make it all possible, who really has time for maybe?
She sent me a few tools to consider and told me this: “I can only offer my full support when you are a 100% yes. Then and only then can we do this, and I know we can. I absolutely believe in you".
I needed more time and I told her I would call her back in three days.
And three days later on January 29, I said in the subject line of an email, “”Ethiopia, here I come”. I pressed the send button on a full yes and she sent me about 28 pages of PDF’s and we set up a recurring call for every Friday until my departure date.
Support switch, flipped on.
There is something about going all in. Something so beautiful about the 100%. It is the exact opposite of that gray area, say when you are dating? Like, are we together, is he my boyfriend, are we seeing other people, is there a title? What does hanging out really mean, as you ask your best friend, “can I text him again or does that seem stalker?” Remember, ugh I do. It was always a love/hate relationship with all the drama of the gray matter.
So I went all in. Black and white, I said yes. I write to you from a chair in the sky on a plane on my first leg of the trip from Denver to DC, then DC to Addis Ababa. It is happening, we really are going to Ethiopia. Right now.
I still scratch my head wondering how this happened?
Is this real?
It is. I just pulled my arm hair and it hurt.
I remember all of my first round of ideas on how to raise the money to support my trip. NOTE: The total fundraising amount is $7145.00 and then on top of that there is 3,000.00 in fees to pay for your actual trip and then an airline ticket from North America >>> Africa. Do you see how the money panic might have started to build?
Some of my ideation: I thought of a podcast I would create but then I found out you really cannot charge for them and I tried to record a couple, not good. Even before that I started to ideate about launching a one woman show starring me called ‘Self Help Me’. Still have the draft written, no dice on when I will hit the big stage. Then I played with an Instagram challenge of sorts with sharing what you imagine but I could not figure out the give back element. And by give back I mean the asking for money part.
And then I went for it asked for help. I called in the champions of heartbeats that are the Writer and recent Africa resident, Lyndsey Fryer and all time supportive gay best friend award winner every year running since 2008, Mr. Matt Hoglund.
We came up with a sweat campaign to the masses, with a social media element and high vibration. The idea to sweat for a cause across the states to build a school together. It came together. We would call it imagiNATION: United we Sweat. I would ask all my instructor friends in any and every state if they would be so willing to join in and donate one of their classes to raising awareness of the organization's mission, to building a school and to developing leaders in Ethiopia with me.
Fryer edited (absolute tore apart in the best way) my campaign letter to call in action and immediate connection. Matt provided support with social media creation and calming energy man. My graphic design mastermind Cait Wharton donated her time to create a custom logo to share and make it visible. My sweet fiancé hugged me often when I felt overwhelmed and told me again and again that he believed in me.
There is an African Proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.”. Well, it took a village to (fund)raise this miracle and make it happen in three month's time. A badass village of gamechangers.
So we launched. And there were deadlines and Fryer cracked the whip via email and Matt supported while I was in Mexico for a week at a crucial time. And the teachers, they said yes and yes and yes. A no here and there and one major scoff at my attempt to reach out blind, lesson learned, connections for the win. And we made support documents; we made donation links, a facebook group for communication and we sent out emails to follow up (probably to the point of annoying, thank you for still loving me).
And the week of March 23, we came together across the states to sweat in yoga, dance, barre and bootcamp. You guys, I am talking from Little Rock to Austin to Saratoga, to Jacksonville, all sweating. Add in Harlem, Cleveland, LA, Santa Fe, Baltimore, Boston and Salt Lake City to name a few more, we really created a sweat vibration in this nation.
Together, we sweat with purpose. Together, we donated funds to build a school in Ethiopia. Together, we surpassed that fundraising goal and I am on this plane. Right now!
So you know, yes, I am going to list out all of the amazing human beings that got me here. Yes, I am going to do it, right now. Take a moment to scroll down, this is what humanity, love and support for something bigger than ourselves looks like. I am honored, so honored to know these amazing human beings, to learn from them and take them with me to Africa today.
Thank you beyond.
Thank you Malia Scott and Blake Hall for saying yes in ATX. Thank you Vanessa Faye Cook for getting salty in Salt Lake City, UT. Thank you Mary Beth LaRue, Jay Co, Sarah Ezrin, Lauren Cohen, Susanne Conrad and Desiree Bartlett for rocking my CA heartbeats. Thank you Mary Clare Sweet and Hannah Hauser in Omaha. Gratitude major to my girl Stacey Faught in Little Rock, AK. Wow. Thank you Erin Thomas for bringing the house down in our old stomping grounds in Bloomington, IN. Thank you Kristin Rhoads for creating a week to Imagine in Minooka, IL. I cannot wait to one day create a vision candle with you. Thank you LA Finnfinger for bringing it from your new hood in Baltimore, MD. And Jennifer Ferris-Glick, so much love for Blissburgh, PA. Liz Hay, you beautiful human, thank you for the barre class and goals love with lululemon. Boston And Amy Basha Conetsco and Kristen Shick, you both know how I feel about you, that lululemon store and the CLE. Speaking of Ohio, seriously Anjua and Zosimo Maximo made me cry in front of strangers in Akron. The space for me to feel, I am grateful for you both and the dynamic duo of Nick Brilla and Ally Grubba! Sarita Moore donating the dance moves in Harlem, I adore you. And hot damn, Jill Bartine representing w/ the likes of Caroline Stilwell Burckle, thank you, Knoxville, TN. Sharon Prothe, special place in my heart leading the sweat with your tribe over there in Kansas City. Cathy Krouse, honored to be part of your new clinic opening in Maine with a donation yoga class to support the imagiNATION. Truly honored. Toni, Toni, Toni Hernandez, the love felt from Big Fish Yoga in Jacksonville, FL – you all know I packed my new long sleeve to rock in Ethiopia. Thank you. Brittany Wallwrath + Gina Ward, thanks for being a stand in Cherry Hill, New Jersey! Irene Minster, you rocked it with lululemon Albuquerque, NM. On my list to come visit soon and thank you! Rachel McDonald and Alexandria Pulfer, thank you for the love in Fayetville, AR! Laura Mary Flynn, oh how I wanted to fly to flow with you on Magic Island in Hawaii, thank you for bringing the aloha love. Laura Hand, bringing the love from Tokyo, where do I count the ways I heart you? And Steph Corker, big love via spin bikes in Vancouver. Thank you rad friend. Birmingham love and sweet tea cheers to Hilary Koenig at Samford University! In my new state, thank you Christen Bakken for being a powerhouse heart in the matter in Denver, CO! Nick Bez, you radical human, thank you for the love from one of my fav cities, Minneapolis, MN! Angela Williams Jones, I see you and I feel the love! Thank you for brining it to Huntington, NY! Lori Mancini and Deb Valois, you both showed up in Greenwich, RI and I am so grateful for you and that Jess Cummings! Shout out to South Dakota heart, Jenn Long for bringing on the YogaSlam jam to give back! Natasha Roggi, thank you for rocking it from Hartford, Connecticut with Alexa Itkin and the lululemon crew! Robin Lang, feeling the love from Virginia Beach, VA, so happy you teamed up with Kaitlyn Hiltz and lululemon. Thank you! Rosalyn Young, happy belated birthday and thank you for representing with the Wyoming yogis in Saratoga. So much heart. And Kathy Sell Smith, you rock my yoga love in Durham NC. Thank you. To my future husband, Chris Hynes, thank you for offering a 2 week donation based sweat fest to a group of rad humans. I love you. I love you all.
To my creatives that partnered with me on rad collaborations, Keri Rowe, Jess Robson and Pei Sim. Thank you for offering up your talents to support me. I could not have done it without you.
Lynds, Matty, Cait and my rock, Chris Hynes, thank you. Thank you for loving me, goaling me and moving me into action. You metaphorically peeled me out of bed to make this dream a reality. Thank you.
I am moved and I have not even landed in Africa yet. What I have learned thus far is be a 100% all in yes if you are going to say yes, let people believe in you and hear them when they say it, ask for support and lean on the village, hug when needed, say thank you, push your limits and believe in humanity. Now.
Okay. I am off to Africa. I am doing it. Here I go...