Certified STOTT PILATES® Instructor, Cancer Exercise Specialist
Owner, Core Studio Pilates & Yoga
Jill Hinson is the founder of the Core Compassion Project, a non-profit organization that awards Pilates scholarships to post-op breast cancer survivors. She built the organization from scratch, and now has volunteer Instructors participating in four states.
Here is how she did it.
It was only a year into owning her own studio that Jill Hinson first encountered what was to soon to become an all-consuming passion. Though she had advanced STOTT PILATES® certification, when a post-op breast cancer survivor showed up in her class one day, she was thrown. “I was a bit lost,” she says. “I was afraid I would hurt her.”
Jill took this unease to the Internet, where she researched training for exercise professionals who worked with cancer survivors, and found the The Pink Ribbon Program, an exercise therapy program designed for the needs of breast cancer survivors focusing on the 6-12 weeks post-surgery.
She signed up for the course, where she learned about the different kinds of surgeries, the after effects and presentations. “I learned that every case is different,” she says. Just one week later she was discussing what she’d learned with a client at the studio. “She said she was glad to hear about the training, as she’d just been diagnosed,” says Jill. Jill, whose young nephew is battling leukemia and whose mother is a colon cancer survivor, was convinced—she needed to do something to help.
She knew Pilates could offer many things to breast cancer survivors—increased mobility, strength and also mental benefits, being able to speak with Instructors who understand the language they are using, having conversations about health and wellness.
“But Pilates is sort of a luxury,” Jill says. “Many women aren’t prescribed physical therapy, and even if they ordinarily can afford Pilates, the medical expenses of treatment may mean that they can’t.”
“Many women aren't prescribed physical therapy”
So Jill began the Core Compassion Project, a non-profit that awards Pilates scholarships of ten classes to post-op breast cancer survivors. She reached out to her community and gathered together a Board of Directors, fundraised $20,000 ($5,000 means 10 scholarships for survivors), and set about acquiring 501(c)3 status so donators could write off the amounts for tax purposes.
Every year Jill and her team hold a Girls Night Out fundraising event. The 4th edition this year drew 150. With the Core Compassion Project and Girls Night Out, “I felt like I was burning people out,” she says. She realized she would need to form a second board for Girls Night Out. This time, she drew from the Pilates community. Jill’s first studio client is now a five-year survivor, has become a Pilates Instructor, and in addition to being on the Girls Night Out committee, also teaches two scholarship privates a week. “She’s dynamic,” says Jill.
One of the challenges for Jill is drawing boundaries with the program. Often the women—30 have gone through the Core Compassion Project to date—need more classes beyond the ten that the scholarship provides. “For a while I was handing out sessions left and right out of my own pocket,” she says. “We are working from our hearts.” But she soon realized that in order to continue running her studio and the Core Compassion Project, she would need to draw lines as to how much she could give of herself.
The Core Compassion Project is run by Certified Pilates Instructors with additional training specifically for breast cancer survivors in Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois and Tennessee who volunteer to teach for a reduced rate for the program. She hopes to take it national one day. “Change happens through movement and movement heals” she says, quoting Joseph Pilates. “It’s really becoming something.”
But before getting so big, Jill says she needs to work on the smaller details of the current program, including web design tweaks, contracts and the volunteer base.
“I’m just going with it and seeing what happens. If we can only help 50 people, great. If we can help more, we’ll definitely do that.”