Saturday, July 7, 2018

CCA Creates Opportunity for Community at Annual Retreat

By Kara Jackman 

Another Annual Retreat and Educational Symposium is in the books. After days of reflection, it struck me that Annual Retreat and one of our attendees children's book have a lot in common. 

Patricia Simon, author of two children's books and Registered Nurse in Illinois, published Simon and the Buddy Branch in 2017. I acquired a copy shortly after returning home from the 2018 Annual Retreat and Educational Symposium in Salt Lake City. I was struck by the similarity between the experience I just witnessed among our families and the one Simon describes in her book through Simon the cardinal's description of the Buddy Branch for his new friend, named Buddy. The Buddy Branch is a place where everyone belongs no matter what their differences...just like Annual Retreat. The text from her book reads...

"I have an idea," said Simon "Let's call this branch the Buddy branch." 

"What's a buddy branch?" Buddy asked. 

A buddy is a friend like you," Simon explained. "The Buddy Branch will be a special place for birds to meet and make friends. If you are ever feeling alone, just sit on this branch. Another bird will see you and join you. Lean on him or her in times of need. Friends can lift you up. What do you think?" 

"Good idea!" the birds agreed, tweeting their approval. 

Both Retreat and the Buddy Branch are beautiful spaces for complete and radical acceptance of all people (and animals)!

There is such joy in those spaces we inhabit during the Annual Retreat weekend. Such joy in the small things from the mundane like helping a fellow retreat attendee apply sunscreen to  the magnificent like the true release of dancing the night away like no one is watching, because no one is. I dance my best at Retreat, because we inhabit a zero judgment zone. 

A community space like Annual Retreat provides must be create, cultivated, and nurtured. CCA creates the opportunities for our community to grow. They provide the structure, the organized activities and meals that lead to late night conversations with friends and families, sitting outside under the stars, or in the lobby on comfy couches. The network we build together extends beyond the four days we spend together every year during the last weekend of June. Soon, after Annual Retreat ends, the Facebook friend requests come rolling in during the days and weeks that follow. The Facebook phenomenon is one that I find to be the most remarkable, unspoken by-products of our retreat weekend. On Facebook and other social media platforms, we stay together in communion with one another, sharing our struggles, triumphs, accomplishments, good and bad news. In times of need, we hold each other up. In times of success, we cheer each other on. There is nothing more beautiful than watching all of this play out, day after day, between our annual gathering. The bonds are maintained through tight connections of the world wide web that we are leveraging for good each time we comment on a post in support of one another. 

I hope everyone enjoys and makes great use of the CCA network, the Buddy Branch, if you will, that CCA built in the form of Annual Retreat. We hope that we may continue to widen the circle for more families to join. We are a positive, resilient, and fun group. Each and every person reading this is part of what makes these descriptors come to life.  All of us are important to the community's strength today and in the future. Please stay positive, keep supporting and educating one another through the craniofacial journey which we all share during this next year. 

I look forward to seeing you all in Scottsdale, AZ in June 2019, where we can build another four days of fun for everyone. 

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