By Raiza Giorgi

What started as a journey to find herself, and find ways to naturally treat stress and anxiety, gave Kelly Fiore an idea to start a valley-wide movement in wellness.

“Two years ago I was in a funk and had lost my own voice. I have a beautiful family, a blessed life, but I couldn’t shake this depression and anxiety. I quickly realized that I was going down a dangerous road and had to find other ways to cope and handle life,” the Santa Ynez Valley resident said.

Fiore attended a group therapy facility in Santa Barbara, where she said she learned how to “self-talk,” and it started to awaken her own voice.

“I never really was into yoga and had never meditated before, but it was an eye-opener to learn how to just sit with myself and feed my body,” she said.

Fiore started attended classes at Valley Barre in Solvang run by Steffany Rodriguez. Rodriguez announced she would have to be on maternity leave and find a substitute teacher, and Fiore found herself jumping at the chance to learn more.

“I learned so much from Steffany, and she opened this side of me that I thought was long gone, because my life that was once running my own business became only about my kids and being a mom. I love my family, but I had this feeling I was losing myself,” Fiore said.

Her earliest memories in preschool, Fiore remembers, were not playing house but “office” or “restaurant,” by having a pretend McDonald’s stand where she would sell burgers to the other kids. At the age of 16 Fiore had four jobs, which led her to a career in marketing and owning her own firm in Los Angeles.

“I have always had a passion for business and connecting people, which sparked this idea of bringing people from all different backgrounds in wellness together. Taking care of the body is much more than exercise, but mental wellness, nutrition and relaxation,” she said.

The first event to introduce the community to Valley Wellness Collective will be the Self Care Festival and Makers Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Mattei’s Tavern. Wares pictured are made by local artisan @WillowWispandWonder.

Fiore then explored and met with many local wellness teachers, including fitness instructors, therapists, creative artists, nutritionists and others, to create Valley Wellness Collective (VWC). The VWC will offer retreats and events to help people explore the “five pillars of wellness,” which are movement, nourishment, creativity, relaxation and mindfulness.

“Retreats are typically super expensive and last for days or into a week. I wanted to create something that everyone could afford and explore multiple facets of wellness in one,” she added.

The first event to introduce the community to VWC is the Self Care Festival and Makers Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at Mattei’s Tavern. Leaders from the valley’s gyms and studios will lead movement classes. There will be treatments (at a cost) of facials, massage and henna, as well as handmade creations from local artisans.

Food will be prepared on site by local chefs and farm stands, and people can enjoy music from local musicians. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Santa Ynez Valley Youth Coalition.

The coalition is a collaboration of volunteer community leaders dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing and reducing substance abuse among youth and adults.

“As a kid I never learned how to express my emotions well or communicate. I know I am not the only one that has struggled with this, so by helping support other organizations that will help our local youth in learning how to self-care from an earlier age, the whole community wins,” Fiore said.

She added that VWC will donate a percentage of the proceeds from all of its events to local schools, senior centers, nonprofits and other organizations so they can also educate and promote wellness in the community.

The first retreat on April 27 will benefit Solvang Elementary School, where teachers will be trained in mindfulness techniques they can apply to the classroom.

The retreat to teach the five pillars will be at the Forage Florals barn at Sunstone Villa. The movement lesson will be led by Sarah Highnote of Restorative Flow; Forage Florals for the creativity; Ayurveda expert Melissa Hepler for nourishment; aromatherapy by Rebecca Mendelson for relaxation; and journaling taught by Lauren Bragg for mindfulness.

The one-day retreat ticket costs $325 and includes a picnic lunch, snacks and beverages and a glass of Sunstone wine at the end of the retreat.

For more information on upcoming events and retreats, or to learn more about VWC, log onto or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.