Jacqueline Ellis is celebrating 10 years of yoga, and 10 years of fundraising.
The View Royal resident and owner of Bikram Yoga West Shore in Colwood said one of the best things about being out here is being surrounded by people who are so willing to put community first. That commitment is what drives her efforts, including a weekly yoga session called the Karma Class.
“A lot of people can’t afford a lot of things these days. Financially people are pretty tapped out,” Ellis said. “If someone comes in and has nothing, we are not going to turn them away. This is a way to give back.”
The Karma classes are run by an experienced instructor and admission is by donation, all of which goes toward causes that have included BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Baby Molly Campbell and family and KidSport.
Notably the funds raised went to help one of their yoga students, Subha Gill.
“(Subha and I) were both students at Bikram’s Yoga for six or seven months before pain started in her leg and she wasn’t able to do a lot of the poses anymore,” said Gill’s mother, Jeevan Sohi. “It was Jacqueline that recommended one of her chiropractors to see Subha. Through that we were able to find that she had bone cancer.”
Being diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a painful cancer similar to what claimed Terry Fox, forced the UVic student to pull out of school and begin chemotherapy five days before her 20th birthday. Six months in, their doctor said there was nothing more they could do.
“When you are going through something as devastating as watching your child die in front of you, you tend not to think about anything else,” an emotional Sohi said. “(But) there was a lot going on with people helping make sure (we were taken care of) and bringing food … I was not able to acknowledge some of that, because of what was happening.
“I love being out here; I feel the community is wonderful. There are so many things the West Shore community is known for and it is very a close-knit community.”
That support included a financial contribution from the Karma Class and a yogathon at the local studio. The events helped raise more then $2,000 for the family’s expenses, including medication for Gill as she endured the challenging cancer treatments that eventually left her bedridden. Ten months after being diagnosed, she passed away on June 25, 2012.
“It was really unbelievable how people came into our lives who we had briefly met or didn’t know at all … It was very overwhelming for us,” Sohi said. “I remember Subha saying when she got better she was going to repay everything everyone did for her. It just never (got better).”
Sohi keeps her daughter’s spirit alive by giving back the way the community rallied around her family, as her daughter fought for her life. In all, she received more than $20,000 from various fundraisers, but Subhi passed away so quickly they only used $1,500. The rest was earmarked for an annual $2,500 Spectrum Community School dance scholarship in Gill’s name. In addition, every year Sohi and her family donate and serve a lunch at Our Place in downtown Victoria on Subha’s birthday.
The Karma Class at Ellis’ studio also continues and the long-time yoga practitioner said she is always on the lookout for more causes to support. She never has to look for long, because those who take the class brings ideas to her. With more than $20,000 raised over the 10 years the studio has been in business, Ellis looks forward to seeing that giving trend continue.
“We are a yoga studio and don’t make a whole bunch, but it is part of being being able to give back,” she said. “A lot of our students are volunteers, so they are already (community minded) and seeing the need and finding the ways to fill it. We do our best to help.”
Bikram Yoga West Shore, 201-2657 Wilfert Rd. off Wale Rd., hosts their 10-year anniversary celebration this Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 19-20) with free classes, door prizes and more. For more information visit bikramwestshore.com.