Mindful Littles Founder Gordon Receives Local Jefferson Award

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(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
Mindful Littles Founder Tanuka Gordon addresses Orinda students to explain making peace kits for children impacted by a devastating fire in Paradise (Butte County).

    It started as a passion project with 15 Orinda families to teach children to be more compassionate. Four years later, Mindful Littles is a full-fledged nonprofit that has touched thousands of children and adults alike.
    And now, Mindful Littles founder Tanuka Gordon is the latest recipient of a local Jefferson Award.
    “It was unexpected but I am very grateful as it helps spread the word about our organization and its work with the children and adults of our community as we engage in caring and compassionate service,” said Gordon.
    The award was presented by the sponsor KPIX. Jefferson Awards are given at both national and local levels to “ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition.” Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr., and entrepreneur Samuel Beard founded the Jefferson Awards for Public Service to establish a Nobel Prize for public and community service in 1972.
    Gordon will be among 30 to 50 Bay Area honorees who will receive medals at a ceremony in January. Three other Orindans, Kate Wiley, founder of Seniors Around Town, and Pam and Gary Schroeder, who started the nonprofit Pads for Pets, also received the award this year.
    “Tanuka’s vision and passion for creating a better world through empowering youth and sparking compassionate action within their communities is inspiring,” said Travis Groft, a Mindful Littles program facilitator. “Her ability to accomplish this while securing the resources she needs to execute the heartfelt programs is unmatched by any leader with whom I have ever worked.”
    Mindful Littles’ vision statement states: “Every child is empowered to create a peaceful, compassionate world starting with themselves, their homes and their community.” The organization’s mission is to teach children and families to be mindful and compassionate through meaningful service learning experiences. Their work concentrates on children pre-school to 5th grade. In three and one-half years they have served more than 4,500 young people.
    “Mindful Littles’ programs are largely volunteer and youth-driven,” Gordon said. “We welcome adults and teens interested in building a kinder, more compassionate world through mindful community service. Middle and high school-aged teenagers assist our volunteer staff during our service learning programs and compassion workshops. Adults are a large part of the program too. The focus is on helping them practice mindful compassion habits so they are empowered to continue the work with youth when Mindful Littles staff isn’t there. 
    An example of their work was their response to the children of Paradise (Butte County) after the devastating 2018 fire. Mindful Littles facilitated service learning projects for more than 1,600 Orinda elementary school students to teach them about the fires, practice mindfulness and assemble peace and wellness kits for students in Paradise.
    “Now we find ourselves in need of meaningful and creative ways to cope with anxiety facing the challenges of a global pandemic. We have made peace kits to support the essential workers on the front lines,” Gordon said.
    “Another way anyone can  help is to honor and show appreciation to our local businesses by crafting uplifting Signs of Positivity to post on their doors and windows, or expressions of care by making chalk drawings on driveways as Mindful Little participants have done,” she said. 
    Staffer Lisa Sadikman described how mindfulness came into use when her worried 8-year-old asked if she could get the coronavirus.
    “My daughter and I did a breath practice to find calm, and sent loving-kindness wishes to ourselves, our family and friends and the world. Her fear didn’t disappear, but she did fall asleep peacefully.” Sadikman said. “It’s powerful what a few minutes of mindful breathing and focused, kind thoughts can do to soothe an anxious child – or adult.”
    Rabbi Nicki Greninger said Mindful Littles has led two programs for her community, one for parents and children called “The Courage to be Different” and one for children about honoring seniors.
    “It was a pleasure to collaborate with Tanuka in planning thoughtful, engaging lessons that were meaningful as well as being fun, interactive, and hands-on. I believe the lessons Mindful Littles brought to our community will stick with the children for a long time,” Greninger said.
    Mindful Littles also creates programs for Girl and Cub Scout troops, sports teams and other youth organizations.
    Gordon said Mindful Littles, which has received funds from foundations, private donations and by charging fees for services, hopes to expand nationally. To learn more, go to mindfullittles.org.

(Contributed Photo)
An Orinda youngster holds a sign at a diversity and inclusion program at Wagner Ranch Elementary School led by Mindful Littles. The event took place in March shortly before schools were closed because of the pandemic.

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