Bent on Learning’s Spring Fling

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The city social scene was typically mellow during this short post-Memorial Day week. The bold-facers we are used to seeing on the circuit turned up at a small handful of events; the highlight being the Bent on Learning Spring Fling Benefit at Indochine on Wednesday evening. The non-profit – founded in 2001 by Anne Desmond, Courtney McDowell, and Jennifer Ford – is committed to bringing yoga into the public school classroom and on Wednesday evening raised over $72,000 by attracting the likes of Julie Henderson; Bibhu Mohapatra; David Barton; Fit and Flop’s Brett Hoebel; jewelry designer Landon Slane; gallerist James Danziger; yoga teachers Barbara Verrochi and Kristin McGee; philanthropist Dana Auslander; Yoga Gives founder Amanda Taylor; DJ Cassidy; real estate maven Melanie Lazenby; and the always dapper Di Mondo.

Throughout the evening, host and Mama Glow founder Latham Thomas’s 9 year old son, DJ Fulano, spun dance tunes from the Sugar Hill Gang, Rick James, and-yes-Young mc, to Kanye West while guests sipped on mojitos and blood orange cosmos and enjoyed healthy, yogi-friendly fare courtesy of Indochine’s signature summer rolls, crab cakes, and seared tuna.

Somewhere in between the imbibing and grooving, the sociable crowd bidded on a unique auction of Art on Yoga Mats. Fourteen yoga mats donated by renowed artists including Stephanie Hirsch, Nigel Barker, Jessica Lichtenstein, Robert Dutesco, Autumn DeForest, and Susan Derges all fetched healthy sums, with Dutesco’s “Horses of Sable Island” photograph mat garnering the largest bid at $1500.

After a brief but energetic speech by the co-founders, AVENUEinsider briefly chatted with Jennifer Ford about the charity’s early years. Summer chic in a Haute Hippie top and biker jacket, the tanned, energetic yoga guru spoke of her days at a public high school in Battery Park City, working with “hard core”, “at risk” teens. “One day,” she said, “I told my students, ‘we are trying something’ and the mood in the room was like ‘boom.’ Totally changed. So the next day, when [my students] arrived, they requested the yoga. That was 13 years ago.”

Ford also likes to think that her organization has contributed to the democratization of yoga.”Back then, yoga was for a select few, and I didn’t like that. We all have our ‘body, breath, and mind’ and it’s all about accessing that. Why should it be so exclusive?”

Indeed, for just $175 a year, anyone can sponsor a year of yoga for a child . That’s about 4 yoga classes in the real world. The program already reaches about 3,300 students weekly, and has benefited over 12,000 children in schools since 2001. But those involved are hardly about to rest on their laurels. “That number needs to grow,” Thomas told the audience in his introductory speech. “Children today are more stressed than ever, and are inundated with so many things around them. A big Ohm to that!



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