By Heather Bennett
We have all been affected by cancer in some capacity, and too many families are forced to endure childhood cancer. There is a beacon of hope for these families, and it can be found here along the Emerald Coast, at Lighthouse Family Retreat. LFR have been hosting retreats for families living through childhood cancer since 1999. They are a faith-based nonprofit organization founded by an oncologist nurse. Although they are headquartered in Atlanta, many of their retreats are located along the panhandle from Panama City Beach to Fort Walton Beach.
I spoke with Todd Craig, the Regional Director of Gulf Coast Operations. Todd lives here with his family, and like the rest of us, knows what a gift it is. “We live in such a beautiful place. We get to share that with people who are going through really challenging times,” said Todd. “There’s something about standing in front of the ocean that brings perspective and hope.”
Thanks to many generous donors, fund raising and volunteers, families that attend retreats have no costs to them once they arrive. If they have trouble covering travel expenses, they can apply for a scholarship. Different resorts in the area donate space for the families to stay during a retreat. “We have a retreat in Watercolor in the fall, over fall break, and homeowners have donated their houses,” said Todd.
Lighthouse Family Retreat depends on the community here. Todd reaches out to churches, homeowners, resorts, restaurants and beach services and has developed relationships with great community partners. “It really is a community effort to pull this off,” said Todd. “When restaurants and beach services make in-kind donations, it’s a game changer. It’s such a cool way for our community to be a part of what is happening here.”
What is happening, is a weeklong opportunity for a family to feel like a family once again. Kids have the chance to play with other kids, adults have time to connect with other adults going through similar situations, and spouses have a date night and reconnect with each other.
During the Lighthouse Family Retreat, families are paired with a family partner, volunteers, who help to serve them during their stay and make all these events run smoothly. The family partners help with the kids, serve meals, provide turn down service, etc. They give the families time to relax.
For these retreats, the family partners are just as important as the donations. Some retreat families come back to volunteer as family partners once they are done facing their own struggle. “There’s something about serving that’s not just healing for the person you’re serving, but it’s healing for you as well,” said Todd. “We’re created to bless and serve one another.”
If you would like more information on Lighthouse Family Retreat, please visit their Website www.lighthousefamilyretreat.org, and if you are interested in making a donation or volunteering you can contact Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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