What: Yogathon for foster care in Boulder County
When: 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 30
Where: Boulder County Recycling Center, 1901 63rd St., Boulder
More info: yoga4kids.eventbrite.com or 303-441-1081
Forget the old-fashioned dancethon that got couples to kick up their heels and sway until the last pair remained to win a jackpot.
Moriah Arnold recently added a twist to the concept by replacing nonstop dancing with ongoing sun salutations to raise awareness, not money, for the foster care program administered by the Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services.
The program volunteer calls the April 30 Boulder event a yogathon that goes beyond the personal exercise benefits so many American practitioners seek.
"Yoga is not really about the exercises," Arnold, 19, said during her morning yoga session alone in a mirrored studio at Naropa University in Boulder, where she studies traditional Eastern arts and yoga.
She paused to breathe while contorting into the king pigeon position that made her body look as twisted as a pretzel.
"It's about connecting with the breath so you can take care of your body, your mind and the people around you," she said. "It is about health, the health of the whole community."
The Naropa junior hopes one day to open her own studio to promote that expanded understanding of yoga.
For now, the county event gives her an early opportunity to lead others who got pledges from friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers to perform the 10-step sun salutations in exchange for a commitment to advocate for the foster care program without necessarily becoming a foster care parent.
Pledges come in three levels:
Attend a foster care advocate training and recruit one person for every 10 sun salutations performed by the yogi you sponsor.
Attend a foster care advocate training and donate one item from the Foster Family Wishlist.
Donate one volunteer hour of foster care outreach at community festivals for every 10 sun salutations performed by the yogi you sponsor.
Gabriel Bernier, the program's marketing and recruitment specialist, initially asked Arnold in 2009 to help him manage spreadsheets of people who had expressed interest in supporting the program and make follow-up calls to those leads.
"But I needed more help just getting the word out that anybody who isn't in a position to be a foster parent can still help by being an advocate," he said.
For instance, foster care program advocates cook freezable meals, do laundry, mow lawns, tutor children and volunteer in many other ways to support the county's foster care families.
"I just needed more of me. So what I wanted to do is recruit recruiters," Bernier said. "When Moriah proposed a yogathon, I thought, 'Oh, man. It's going to rock the agency.'"
His co-workers immediately took to the idea.
"We've been excited about it from the start," said Melanie McGinn, lead caseworker on the county's foster and adoption team. "Our purpose is to raise awareness in the community so we can find those families out there who are interested (in parenting or advocating). ... This gives us an opportunity to talk about foster care and the needs in our community in a really fun way."
For her part, Arnold hopes her healthy passion for yoga translates into more at-large activism on behalf of children caught in the middle.
"People always say that yoga is learning how to breathe in tight spaces. That applies to life, too -- learning how to breathe through tough times," she said. "We just want to help (potential program volunteers) discover their light and what they can offer to create a solid, full, vibrant community to help these kids."