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Back in June, we were thrilled to see the turnout at our Freedom Fun Run 5K, and we’re so happy we were able to raise $12,500 for Parkersburg’s Project Yoga, which offers yoga classes specially tailored for Veterans.
Project Yoga was founded in 2017 by Cheryl and Patrick McHugh whose goal was to make the therapeutic benefits of yoga available to underserved communities in the Parkersburg area.
U.S. Army Veteran Steve Barnhart joined the team as the organization’s Veterans Manager after experiencing the positive effects of yoga firsthand.
“Yoga helped me finally deal with, talk about, and put behind me things that I had held inside for 20-plus years. I found it unexpectedly, and now I’m trying to spread it so that others can benefit as well,” he said.
Barnhart explained that he decided to take a 200-hour yoga teacher training program to learn more about the practice of yoga and what exactly makes it so beneficial. As part of the program, he was required to offer a number of free classes as practice, and he decided he wanted to offer those classes to Veterans.
“I didn’t have a lot of success at first – there’s a lot of stereotyping of yoga. But seeing a guy like me kind of helps break that stereotype,” Barnhart said.
Ultimately, he found an opportunity to offer the classes at the Veterans Center in Parkersburg, where they were very popular.
“It was supposed to be a one-time trial on a Monday night back in June. But when that first class was over, the Vets were like, ‘OK, same time next week?’ It just grew,” he said.
As the classes continued to gain popularity, they outgrew the space available at the Veterans Center, and it was at that point that the Veterans program relocated to Project Yoga. Each week since, Barnhart has had the opportunity to witness the benefits experienced by the Veterans who attend.
“There was one gentleman in particular who had some physical challenges. We initially started doing chair yoga, and we graduated when the Veterans wanted to start doing ‘real’ yoga. This gentleman kind of confided in me that he wasn’t going to come back even though he enjoyed it because he hadn’t been able to get up and down off the floor by himself for a long time. He was over 70 years old. Thankfully, Cheryl was there and asked him if he’d be OK if we helped him up and down and he was, so he kept coming back. And now he’s a different man,” Barnhart said.
Moving forward, Barnhart and the Project Yoga team would like to hire more teachers and make both additional classes and additional types of yoga available to local Veterans. And we here at Jan Dils are happy to have the opportunity to support their efforts to do that.
“Listening to Steve’s story and other Veterans’ stories about how much yoga has helped them with adjusting to everyday life was inspiring,” said Jan Dils.
For Barnhart, the classes have personal significance, as well.
“I kind of accidentally discovered yoga and it helped me, and I’m trying to help others and to maybe make up for a few mistakes that I’ve made in my past by doing something good,” he said.
If you’re a Veteran in need of more information about legal representation or Veterans benefits, please give us a call anytime at 877-526-3457. One of our representatives will be happy to answer your questions.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law