Founder & Executive Director Tanuka spent her career working in user experience and product management for technology companies, where much of her time was focused on how to create meaningful product experiences that engage the customer. Now she applies her professional background to create inspirational compassion experiences for youth and families. Tanuka oversees the organization’s vision and strategy, designs the programs and events, and loves connecting with youth. Tanuka also teaches kids yoga and mindfulness in her local community and facilitates design thinking workshops. She is trained through Mindful Schools, YogaKids and YogaFlowSF. Her daily mindfulness practice is an important way for her to stay grounded.
"My children are my greatest teachers and my greatest source of inspiration. They are the reason I first journeyed into mindfulness and the reason I am inspired to integrate mindfulness and compassion into our daily lives as a family. I want my children to view mindfulness and kindness as a natural and organic part of their everyday lives. I want them to thrive in a community where kids are more conscious and aware of themselves and others; where they are kind, and where they can safely, freely and confidently express their authentic selves. I hope we can create a community where littles are inspired to Live in their Hearts, to be in tune with their own inner light so they share this light with others."
Director of Community Development
Cheryl is the former Director of Corporate and Community Development at Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego. While working there, she specialized in building relationships with companies and community groups to support the House, both financially and with the gift of their time. She brings these unique set of skills to Mindful Littles helping us build and grow our community development program.
“Working at the House opened my eyes to the world of medical breakthroughs and heartaches and the emotional roller coaster that families go through, especially the siblings of the hospitalized children. If all our littles have the tools to stay grounded among turmoil and to have the heart and compassion to help those around us, the world would be a better place. Compassion isn’t sprouted overnight, it needs to be taught at an early age, nurtured and set into practice. Community and the sense of giving is very important in our family and Mindful Littles is spreading that love to littles and bigs alike.”
Director of Digital Content
Lisa is a freelance writer living in northern California with her husband and three daughters. She writes about raising girls, women’s issues and parenting. Her writing can be found on her blog Flingo, Scary Mommy, Literary Mama, Motherwell Magazine, Brain, Child, HuffPost Parents and others.
At Mindful Littles, Lisa curates articles, resources and activities to inspire mindfulness in both Littles and Bigs. Her passions include surfing, spinning, coffee, finishing crosswords, reading and keeping up with her daughters’ Spotify playlists.
“With three girls of varying ages, I’m often quickly switching modes to meet their needs. It’s definitely a challenge, but tapping into compassion and empathy does wonders to shift the energy from precarious to positive for both me and my girls. I love that Mindful Littles reinforces what’s already true for our kids: they’re born with open hearts and helpful hands. They just need our encouragement to realize their love and care can change the world.”
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Hannah has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Education and Applied Psychology from UC Santa Barbara, where she was first introduced to mindfulness. Before joining Mindful Littles, Hannah was the Bay Area representative for Be the Match where she fostered relationships between Bay Area businesses and organizations to grow the National Marrow Donor Registry.
She’s passionate about positive psychology, wellness and going beyond surviving to truly thriving. She believes practicing mindfulness and gratitude beginning at a young age encourages Littles to be happy, healthy, compassionate members in their communities. Hannah’s dedicated her professional career to the nonprofit sector with a commitment to “leave this earth just a little better than it was when I arrived.”
Community Development Manager
Molly joined the Mindful Littles crew after attending the inaugural event. Since then she's been an incredible member of our team always bringing positive enthusiasm, creativity and willingness to help out in whatever way she can. With an eye for the fine details and creativity, she always ensures that our event experiences are filled with a lot of love. Molly has completed training through Mindful Schools and loves spending time with her beautiful family outdoors.
Mary is passionate about the Mindful Littles mission and has been with Mindful Littles since the inception, piloting the first project in Tanuka’s backyard. Mary was instrumental in creating the initial service projects and introduced the "Pinterest-able" quality to all our events. She makes sure our event experiences are always fulfilling, not only for those participating but the beneficiaries of our projects. With extensive training from YogaWorks, YogaKids and Mindful Schools, Mary now facilitates many of our family events teaching mindfulness, yoga and compassion.
“I want my kids to grow up in a community where we spread compassion and help each other. My hope is that when my kids grow up they never think twice about being inclusive and helping others.”
Ashley Fiorilli, Ph.D.
Curriculum & Behavioral Analyst
Ashley has worked in the field of developmental disabilities for 12 years. She began her professional career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2009. In the last nine years, she’s worked with children and adults with autism and related disabilities in schools, homes, clinics and group settings. Ashley’s personal interest in travel as well as working across cultures, led her to a doctorate in International Psychology with an emphasis in Organizations and Systems from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Her dissertation was titled Autism in Children: A Phenomenological Study of South African Caregivers. Ashley’s passion is to merge her love of behavioral science with her practice of yoga, with a focus on individuals with special needs. Currently, she is a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher and is working towards her 300-hour completion.
Tara is a middle school science teacher and has a passion for providing ways to allow her students to grow and thrive beyond just being academically successful. Tara brings the practice of mindfulness into her classroom along with seva and “mindful moments” discussions about the positive impact we can each make in the world. It was through Tara’s daily mindfulness and yoga practice, she knew this would be helpful for her students. The group mindfulness practice, allows Tara’s students the opportunity for them to feel the emotions in their bodies and to learn tools to help “bring them to center”, and to be in the present moment. With extensive training through Mindful Schools, YogaWorks, Kundalini Research Institute and her background in education, Tara helps to facilitate events teaching mindfulness, yoga and compassion.
Matt Clark-Hurley, Regional Director, Galileo Learning
Matt is the East Bay and Marin Regional Director of Galileo Learning and runs innovation based summer camps throughout the Bay Area. Matt has worked within the summer camp and outside-of-school learning field for more than 20 years, starting as a Camp Counselor in Northern California. He also keeps busy consistently trying to engage his three boys, exploring the East Bay hills and traveling.
Matt's introduction to Mindful Littles came in spring 2018, where he piloted a few Mindful Little programs at Camp Galileo. He's personally interested in mindfulness, reflection and good design for all and is excited to support Mindful Littles as it grows within the Bay Area.
Stefanie Goldstein, Ph.D.
Stefanie Goldstein, Ph.D. is a busy mom to three boys, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living in West Los Angeles. She is the co-creator of the Good Morning America featured teen program "CALM: Connecting Adolescents to Learning Mindfulness." The 8-week program teaches mindfulness and social/emotional learning to teens. Stefanie has also helped public and private schools throughout the Los Angeles area implement mindfulness into their curriculum and communities. She’s dedicated much of her career to training and supervising therapists and her lifelong passion is supporting adolescents, adults, couples and families struggling with daily life on their paths towards healing and growth.
Executive Director, Born This Way Foundation
Maya has over a decade of experience in the youth empowerment, civic engagement, and community development fields and proudly serves as the first Executive Director of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to support the wellness of young people and empower them to build a kinder, braver world through authentic youth-focused programming and campaigns that foster kindness and advance the conversation around mental health.
In addition to her work with Born This Way Foundation, Maya serves on the Board of Directors of Advocates for Youth, Learning To Give, and Give Together. She's also received numerous awards and fellowships for her leadership, including the competitive Prime Movers Fellowship of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, a multi-year fellowship program for emerging and established social movement leaders working at the national level.
Very proud of her Jersey roots, Maya grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. She currently resides outside of San Francisco with her husband, David, their two children and their black lab, Hudson.
“Kids have kindness in them; they are born with it. Somehow along the way, they lose it, so if we could just focus on young people and focus on kids and keep that kindness, friendship, idealism, we will all be better for it.”
Strategy & Brand
Julia not only brings a calm demeanor and presence to our team, but brings a wealth of knowledge on nonprofit strategy and brand management. She co-authored the book, "The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity" and has consulted for many nonprofits helping organizations become more effective in achieving their mission and goals. Julia is our team's sherpa guiding us with her strategic expertise and parenting perspectives. She has been a very active member of the community in various leadership capacities for the Educational Foundation of Orinda and the local school district. She's also trained through Mindful Schools and has a regular meditation practice. We are grateful to have Julia on our Mindful Littles crew and are looking forward to the Mindful Littles mountaineering journey with her.
Mark White, Ph.D.
Mark White is a research fellow at the Institute of Social Research where he studies program evaluation with a focus on programs designed to build social and emotional skills in students. He received a PhD in education in 2017 from the University of Michigan. His interest in mindfulness began a few years ago as he began to read about the research on the benefits of mindfulness and he has begun a personal practice since then. With stars aligning, Mark first got introduced to our Mindful Littles founder through his sister, and was excited to join the organization after learning about the great work that is being done at the nonprofit organization.
Katie is a Bay Area native living in Oakland with her husband and four young kids. She has a background in business and sustainability and in her free time enjoys being in nature, volunteering at her children's school, reading, knitting/sewing and camping with her family. Katie volunteers her time to help Mindful Littles with blog writing, email marketing and wants to be involved in any way that is helpful.
"I was invited to a Mindful Littles event by my sister and was so moved my the mission and vision of the organization. I want my kids to be exposed to compassion and kindness in as many ways as possible. I asked Tanuka right away how I could become more involved."
Jenn is thrilled to be contributing to the Mindful Littles blog, with a focus on highlighting community members who will inspire both parents and littles with their stories. In July 2014, Jenn retired from her fourteen-year marketing career at Old Navy to be home with her young children. Soon thereafter she embarked on a new journey freelance writing in her limited free time while still juggling her fulltime mom role. In addition to Mindful Littles, she currently contributes to Forager Botanicals, an all-natural skincare/beauty brand, and Lamorinda Weekly. Previously she was lead writer for Wild Food News, a sustainable food and lifestyle blog. Jenn also volunteers teaching ESL to adult refugees/immigrants.
Jenn’s other passions include sustainable food/lifestyle choices (she is plant-based, aka vegan), cooking up new recipes for family and friends, human rights, animal welfare, live music, and exploring the world.
“I feel lucky to be a part of the Mindful Little team, as it is already a key resource for our family in teaching community service and compassion. I look forward to learning more about how to be a more mindful and patient parent as I uncover more stories and share them with all of you.”
Betsy received her Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Boston University. She and her husband have three daughters and live in Orinda where she treats adults, kids and families to bring balance back to their bodies and minds through her private practice.
Betsy trained at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. where she learned to work with people with trauma and nervous system regulatory challenges, using mindfulness techniques. In addition, she is a Level I Reiki practitioner and also works at Crocker Highlands Elementary School in Oakland and Glorietta Elementary School in Orinda teaching Kindergarten and 1st graders motor skills, yoga and mindfulness.
Betsy’s vision is for students, administrators, teachers and parents to experience less stress and anxiety and more compassion for each other and their community.
Shumi Malhotra Sharma
Shumi spent a decade ideating and executing integrated marketing campaigns within media companies and ad agencies such as NBC Universal, Nickelodeon and JWT Worldwide. These experiences taught her the art of ‘meaningful marketing’, which she hopes to put to use helping Mindful Littles reach, empower, & inspire as many families as possible.
“After the first Mindful Littles event my daughter and I attended, I knew I wanted to spread the mission of this organization. Imagine a world where we all feel joyful, inspired and committed to being conscious, caring role models for our families and communities. I want to help Mindful Littles make that a reality.”
Event Marketing & Outreach
Kimthy is a practicing clinical pharmacist with over a decade of experience specializing in chronic disease management. She practices and advocates for compassion and kindness within her community and has an active interest in utilizing mindfulness to promote health in ways medications can't. Kimthy is excited to be part of an organization that shares her passion in educating others about the importance of holistic wellness through physical, mental and emotional well-being.
“Children are innocent, happy, excited and honest beings. I want to help each child cultivate and nurture this beautiful spirit within so they can continue to grow in a healthy way. With the fast-paced culture in the Bay Area, it has become even more important to foster a practice of compassion and mindfulness starting at a young age. These are wonderful lifelong skills that children need as they grow into adulthood and learn to contribute to the community in a meaningful way.”
Travis Groft is a proud and loving family man. At the tender age of 18, Travis joined the U.S. Air Force on September 18th, 2001. He was stationed all over the world and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It was there that Travis became a man, husband and father and discovered his love of food and travel.
In 2008 he and his family returned to the Bay Area and he quickly realized that he needed to develop and implement more supportive self-care strategies in order to reintegrate into civilian life and grow as a person. It was in 2009 that he went back to school and began experimenting with mindfulness meditation and other body-based self care techniques. Travis found that a holistic lifestyle and greater self awareness fostered emotional mastery and resilience, despite the many challenges he and his family faced.
He graduated from San Francisco State University in 2014 with a B.S. in Kinesiology and has been a practicing health and fitness coach ever since. He is also an experienced facilitator, leading mindfulness and meditation workshops for veterans and sharing other self care strategies to anyone who may benefit from such practices. Travis continues to explore and grow as a person, which led him to Mindful Littles where he happily serves communities by sharing his passion for health and wellness with Littles and Bigs from all walks of life.
Ninon Shesgreen is a creative genius and has a heart of gold. This incredible combination manifests in unique awe-inspiring products she creates through her own company Vagabond Ruth. Prior to Vagabond Ruth, Ninon spent years working as a teacher for the hearing-impaired. She has been dedicated to Mindful Littles since attending our first pilot event. For our Diversity program, she contributed countless hours to create a beautiful handmade quilt of the American Flag- representing "Different Hearts, United As One." This quilt will now be rotated each year through different faith-based institutions in honor of World Cultural Diversity Day. Soon after our Diversity project, we adopted her into the Mindful Littles family to help infuse our team with her sweet energy and creative prowess.
"My children teach me patience, understanding, grace, and my own capacity for all encompassing love. I try to teach them in turn, that they have unique gifts to contribute to this big, wonderful world. This personal belief is mirrored in the mission and message of Mindful Littles. Kids need opportunities to learn empathy, compassion, inclusion and that we all, large or small, can help. Kindness, like laughter, is contagious."
My time with Mindful Littles’ has solidified my commitment to youth development and empowerment, as I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the wonderfully innovative ideas that littles have for the improvement of their communities. There are few things more gratifying than watching and helping littles turn their creativity into meaningful action, and I’m grateful to Mindful Littles for giving me the opportunity to do so.
-Iris Wu, Youth Leader, Age 19
The work that Mindful Littles does is the antithesis of the violence. With the continued threat of mass shootings, with homegrown mental illness, you don’t arm people with weapons. You pay attention; you teach compassion, you educate and help community members. This is how we change. This is how we are going to fight the good fight; not with weapons and strategies of self-defense, but by being proactive with love. I believe Mindful Littles is the solution. It will awaken our youth and help contribute to a more positive future.
- Travis Groft, Veteran
Mindful Littles was an integral part of our collaborative initiative, OrindaCares. OrindaCares is a partnership with Mindful Littles, the Orinda Union School District, Miramonte High School, and the City of Orinda. Mindful Littles provided not just the concept and strategy development for this partnership, but the project leadership and organization to make our initiative highly successful.
- Carolyn Seaton, Superintendent of Orinda Union School District
The event had quite an impact on my 7 year old son, Caden, who, after assembling hygiene kits at your Mindful Littles event, decided to raise money for the kids in Haiti on his own. I think what you are doing through the Mindful Littles program is wonderful, and it’s obviously having an impact on children near and far… I look forward to attending another one soon!
- Kim Morrow, Local Bay Area Parent
That was a really great event. I held more doors open for people in the last few days than I think I have in my life.🙂 Your words were heard.
-Jennifer Kamal, Local Bay Area Parent
Mindful Little has led two programs this year for our community - one for parents and children on the topic "the courage to be different," and one just for children on the topic of honoring seniors. Both were absolutely wonderful! It was a pleasure to collaborate with Tanuka in planning the programs, and she and her team prepared thoughtful, engaging lessons that were meaningful to the families 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, and I highly recommend Mindful Littles programs!
Our Girl Scout troop was looking for something meaningful to do around the holidays. Mindful Littles made everything so easy and the core values of Mindful Littles and Girl Scouts were perfectly matched. The girls appeared at Las Trampas and were immediately put into action assisting disabled individuals with holiday activities and celebrating the holiday cheer. It was a labor of love on both ends. My daughter left the event and said, “That was awesome. Let’s do more of that."
- Jennifer LaForce, Bay Area Girl Scout Troop Leader
Our Daisy Troop invited Tanuka Gordon of Mindful Littles to lead a
class for our Kindergarten Daisy Scouts. Tanuka taught the girls
through stories and pictures about what life is like for children
living in Haiti. We decorated and put together pencil cases for
students there. Tanuka also guided us through a mindful moment
incorporating yoga movements and breathing techniques. A few months
later, the girls were thrilled to receive artwork back from the
students in Haiti. We loved our Mindful Littles class and found that
it helped to open the girls’ eyes to the world around them!
A clinician just popped into my office and shared how one of our kids loved the positive words on the hygiene kit. The youth said it felt like Christmas – all because of a hygiene kit. Amazing.
- Beth Goldberg, Director of Development for Youth Homes
Working with Mindful Littles has been a life changing experience. Before volunteering with this group, I’d say I was guilty of not always incorporating compassion and mindfulness into my everyday life, but since I have started volunteering with this organization I have noticed a positive change within myself.
- Danielle Castro, Youth Leader, Age 17
Join us on our journey of empowering our youngest generations to be courageous compassionate change-makers.
If you are interested in partnering with us for any of our programs, we would love to hear from you. Contact us here
We need donations to continue funding mindful service projects for our youth.