OCEANSIDE — In 2006, 32-year-old Sean O’Shea was killed in a freak automobile accident caused by an unidentified vehicle, on Interstate 5.
Afterward, his mother Gloria was left to determine the fate of the Four Seasons Yoga Studio in La Jolla that he opened in 2004.
A graduate of UC Berkeley, Sean was 17 when he began studying yoga with Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas. Later, Miller taught Sean how to teach yoga to kids.
“Sean believed that yoga not only improved GPAs but also decreased the way kids look at violence and cope with everyday life,” Gloria explained. “After his death, it appeared that his work was done. I was going to close the school but his students pleaded with me not to.”
Support from students, and teachers, prompted her to continue her son’s work by selling the studio instead of closing it.
She resigned from her position in community relations at the Ecke YMCA so that she could launch the Sean O’Shea Foundation to expand Sean O’Shea’s mission of providing yoga instruction to underserved children and youth.
With help from attorneys, yoga teachers, schoolteachers and a psychologist working pro bono, the foundation secured its nonprofit tax status in November 2007.
“Following the pilot program in spring 2008 we came together and decided to add nutrition to the program,” she added.
The foundation started with 180 students in San Diego but the need kept growing until, finally, Gloria had to cap the program at 15 schools a semester.
“I needed help but there were no funds to do that,” she recalled. “I added Rady Children’s Hospital — kids, parents and staff of the oncology unit — and it just kept growing.”
As word spread, she was approached by probation officers, school psychologists and nurses desperate for help.
An after-school yoga program run by probation officers that was started in Los Angeles had expanded to target schools in the metropolitan area.
“We have a list of more than 150 teachers who want us to work with their schools because they know how it benefitted their own life and they want to share it,” she said. “We are working hard to raise the funds.”
Frank Juarez is deputy probation officer at Torch Middle School in Los Angeles County.
“Participating students have improved academically, socially and demonstrated a level of calm during turbulent times,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of the first group enlisted in the program demonstrated significant improvement in their grade point averages.
“Furthermore, I personally witnessed a pro-social change in behavior within this very group.
“Students in the program were more willing to listen, had less negative behavior referrals from their teachers, and showed growth in regards to maturity over other students on my caseload that were nonparticipants.”
To date the Sean O’Shea Foundation has served 8,000 at-risk and/or low-income students ranging from ages 8 to 18 in 75 schools. Recently, the foundation was recognized as the “Top Rated NonProfit” by GreatNonProfits.org, the leading developer of online tools for searching and sharing information about nonprofits.
Gloria’s goal is to generate $20,000 this fall so that more schools can be added, and to be able to expand the current seven-week program to a full semester and eventually a full-school year.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit seanosheafoundation.org/. To contact Gloria directly call (760) 453-9924 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday mornings through Sept. 8, the Sean O’Shea Foundation and Kids for Peace will be beneficiaries of 10 percent of admission fees to the Yoga Rocks the Park event at Stagecoach Park in Carlsbad.
The celebration is an opportunity for children and adults to practice yoga in age-specific groups.
Tickets are $10 for children, $12 for adults in advance and $15 for adults the day of the event. Families with multiple children pay only $7 for each child.
The class begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. and continues until 10:30 a.m.
B.K. Bose, Ph.D., nationally-recognized leader in mindfulness for the youth movement will present a training from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 7 at Yoga Tropics West.