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Business Building Blocks

By Angie Patrick

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The Making of Sanctuary: Helping One Another

I believe people as a whole want to help one another. We see this from time to time in spontaneous and random acts of kindness and in how we rally around one another in times of need or distress. In times of unimaginable loss or danger, often we see personal agendas put aside, politics abandoned, and the act of caring for our fellow man become center and forefront. When the cause is greater than the politics, we come together and shine. Humans are sentient and caring, and inherently have a desire to help one another achieve better circumstances. While there are marked exceptions, I truly believe humanity has an inner desire to do the right thing by one another. This is especially true in the massage industry. We are blessed to have members of our community who will gladly volunteer their time and talents if it means helping and supporting a noble cause or helping a friend in need.

History of Giving

When we look a bit closer at the Massage and Spa industry, we can also see this longing to contribute positively to the pool of humanity in product manufacturers, suppliers and service providers. When a company steps forward and takes positive action in becoming a steward for the profession, it is also known as being corporately responsible. In my work, I have the great privilege of knowing and working with the kind of people I am speaking about here. I have had a front row seat since 2006 to one of the largest mobilizations of students, schools, private practitioner and corporate entities coming together for the greater good of massage; each bringing their own special skills, competencies and contributions to the table and ultimately culminating in a program known as Sanctuary.

What is The Sanctuary?

foot massage - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Sanctuary's mission is to bring greater understanding to the members of the massage community for the need and importance of massage therapy research, as well as serving as a vehicle to raise funding to help facilitate that research.

In 2006, the idea came about to offer services and treatments on the trade show floors to better showcase goods and equipment in a real world scenario. The idea was that a real, working spa would be set up on the trade show floor, enabling therapists to take a break from a trade show and classes for some much deserved bodywork, and also be introduced to products from the client perspective. It did not take long before the "humanity" of the endeavor began to blossom and the thought came about to utilize this vehicle as a means to raise awareness and funding for the works of the Massage Therapy Foundation, the first recipients of the Sanctuary fund raising efforts. And in a flash, the Sanctuary was born and has become a mainstay at national and regional trade shows alike. It is an event anticipated by many who return year after year to be part of the event both as a practitioner, as well as a recipient of the bodywork provided.

Stewards of the Industry

Sanctuary enjoys a wide roster of corporate sponsors who donate both product and funds to the project time after time. Corporate sponsorships are what rocketed Sanctuary from a donation of $1,000 to, at times, more than $12,000 each event! Without the corporate sponsors, bringing Sanctuary to bear year after year would be hugely daunting. We are thankful for the support of these corporate sponsors, who have been a huge part of the success of Sanctuary. These companies, although many being competitors in the marketplace, put aside agenda and competition for the greater good of the profession. Sanctuary has become an event that brings companies together in support of a worthwhile cause, showcases their goods and services in the eyes and minds of the therapist and trade show attendees, provides students an opportunity to enjoy a trade show and network, brings some relaxation and pampering to therapists, and also serves to bring much needed funding to research. Each way you slice this project, it has good outcomes for all involved.


In addition to the invaluable corporate Sponsorship, it would be unthinkable to have Sanctuary without volunteers. Historically, we have reached out to schools within the local area of an event to invite them to share the Sanctuary and trade show experience with their students. We have had the incredible fortune of working with so many wonderful schools, and in turn, met some very bright and promising massage therapists. I have been fortunate to witness those same students return year after year and continue to volunteer for the causes Sanctuary now supports. We have made life-long friendships along the way, and have had the incredible experience of watching people give freely of their time and talent to one another.

The volunteers, corporate sponsors, vendors, schools and students can be proud in knowing that to date, Sanctuary has contributed in excess of $120,000 toward massage related research. Recipients of these funds are varied, and include The Massage Therapy Foundation, The Touch Research Institute and The Liddle Kidz Foundation. Each event is different, and each time we present Sanctuary, new bridges are built. A bridge is built in the minds of attendees as they learn what Sanctuary is all about and why it exists, and a fire is ignited in the belly of the students involved to know more and investigate what research is all about. I have had students come to me years after their time in Sanctuary and share with me what a memorable and pivotal experience being involved was for them in their career, and how they still look back with fond memories of the event. In some cases, the student volunteers in Sanctuary secured jobs after graduation as a direct result of the time spent volunteering.

Sanctuary continues to be a place where politics are put aside, and where we can all be part of something greater than the sum of our collective parts. Sanctuary is a program that allows therapists to be immersed in the use and feel of products through the eyes of a client, it allows manufacturers an outlet to contribute both financially and in product support to the furtherance of research while allowing the students and volunteers the opportunity to learn new modalities that enable them to earn more, all while working in concert to make the massage community a better place than when we all found it. I have indeed been fortunate to have a front row seat in both the conception of the program and in the facilitating of the events. I am at once humbled and overjoyed at the support this project continues to garner, and for the good works it supports in turn. I am thankful to all our partners, volunteers and to the attendees for their willingness to participate year after year. Sanctuary pioneered one of the most powerful, community uniting and successful community fund raising events we have seen in our industry to date in support of research. I am confident this will continue to be a mainstay, and a focal point at national events for years to come.

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