Thursday, July 5, 2018

MORE Reflections on 28th Annual Retreat in Salt Lake City

Ed. Note: I culled a few more retreat reflections from Katie Whicker and Retreat OG, Erin Richmond. These two range from the funny to the sentimental. I hope you enjoy them in equal measure for all that they are. -Kara J. 

By Erin Williams Richmond 

I am home and now that I have hugged my boys and reflected on the weekend, I am going to try my best to find the words to describe yet another amazing, memorable weekend at the Children’s Craniofacial Association annual retreat. CCA has been a part of my life since I was 3 years old. In 1985, Cher starred in the movie Mask, a film about the life of a boy who had a rare craniofacial condition. My very first experience was a meet and great with Cher at her Heart of Stone Tour in 1989, followed very soon after by an event in Washington DC to promote awareness of craniofacial disorders and advocacy for much needed insurance coverages. It was at that time when several families who spent time with Cher realized as they connected and created lifelong friendships how very important it was to make those connections for the well-being of both parents and children. The first CCA retreat was born 28 years ago from a very private and emotional discussion in Cher’s hotel room about how great it was to finally be in a place together where our families felt safe and understood. My family was part of that conversation and just a short time later we participated in the very first retreat in Orlando, Florida. Char and Jill along with others have been an important part of my life ever since. We were not able to attend every retreat but when we did I always loved being with my old friends and making new ones. It's remarkable, and actually surreal to be able to witness (although really too young to actually remember haha) a small group of families come together with an idea and to see how over the years this amazing organization has grown to exceed the capacity of some pretty huge hotels. It's incredible. It's hard to put into words. On Saturday, I took a step back to soak up the moment and it brought me to tears. 
I have found my safe haven. My home with those that I love and who love me unconditionally is my safe haven. Beyond the walls of my house, I am faced with many obstacles and uncomfortable situations daily but thankfully I am strong enough to overlook and overcome them. My other safe haven is with my CCA family. Once year, I am blessed to be surrounded by children and adults with craniofacial differences and their families. Living with Treacher Collins isn’t easy but it’s an amazing life that I live and wouldn’t trade it for anything. To flourish, we all need a safe place, both physically and emotionally, to come home to. For many of us, the annual CCA retreat is our safe place to come home to. It’s our sanctuary. We are surrounded by others who “get it.” It’s four days where we aren’t stared at. You walk into a large room and you don’t get that high school anxiety about who to sit with and if someone will like you. We don’t get asked questions about how we look. We aren’t judged. No one presumes incompetence or lack of intelligence because of how we look. We are confident. We talk to strangers, we dance, we sing, we crack jokes. We feel empowered. We lift each other up. It’s a place where inner beauty, personality, intelligence, talent, sense of humor is valued and cherished above all else. Someone tells you that you look beautiful and it feels genuine. You feel loved. You feel like you’ve known these individuals for a lifetime. You become family with someone you met for the first time yesterday. Lifelong friendships are formed and they flourish year after year. Tears are shed … happy tears and tears of sadness or fear. The smiles and laughter spreads faster than wildfire and our cheeks hurt for weeks. For us, kindness isn’t a choice we make … it’s an inherent part of who we are. I come home immersed in the superficiality of the world around me yet I have such hopes and dreams for a better, kinder place. The families that I have been with for the last four days, some of which I’ve known for 28 years, are the most beautiful, kind, talented, courageous, intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. While life has gotten busy over the years, the lifelong friends and support system from CCA have never faltered. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a part of the CCA family. “Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” I am blessed to be a part of this one big happy CCA family, to have the CCA retreat as my safe haven, and to know such great, wonderous people! 
Thank you Erica Crabtree Mossholderr, Annie Burt ReevesCharlene Char Duitsman SmithJill Gorecki PattersonKara Jackman and so many others for making this retreat a memorable, safe haven for us year after year. You are appreciated and loved beyond measure. 

1 comment:

  1. As I follow several CCA families from afar, might I add I also see the most sincere and biggest smiles and heart ever.


We welcome and encourage all readers to post feedback, however, we reserve the right to remove any comments that are deemed offensive or unrelated to the topic of discussion. Thank you for understanding and for helping us to foster a healthy environment for the families that we serve.