Elise Barrett has sound advice for caregivers who are walking the same path she has walked: “One of the things I had to learn over and over again is that human capacity is limited,” she recently shared. “These experiences take more out of you than you can replenish, and you can’t blame yourself. You are going to be compromised. You are not going to be able to always be patient, be loving, plan, or make meals. Whatever your thing is, you might not be able to do it. It is so important to normalize that uncomfortable truth, and to find ways of accepting it, and to discover ways of adapting. There will be many seasons, and letting each season be what it is can be what survival looks like.”
Holli Brown calls Inheritance of Hope “the most intentional charity we know,” high praise from this recipient of the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of over 4,000 hours she has given as a volunteer. Holli, a flight attendant with Southwest Airlines, and her husband Josh, a firefighter, recently served together on an IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ in California, something the couple has wanted to do ever since they were introduced to the organization in 2011. The Browns have been involved in international mission trips, local community projects, and also run their own non-profit organization pairing veterans suffering from PTSD with service dogs. IoH, though, has a special place in their hearts because of how the organization served Josh’s sister, M’Leigha Graham, and her family. According to Holli, “Without IoH, never in a million years would they have been able to do what they did with M’Leigha being so sick.”
Geoff Lewis was 31 years old, engaged, and a new business owner when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2007. For eight years, he “fought like hell,” according to his younger brother Josh. A hard-worker and optimist until the very end, Geoff passed away in March 2015. He left behind his wife Sandy, six-year-old daughter Landyn, and their nephew Wayne, whom the couple was raising.
|Geoff (center), Josh, and their Dad in NYC|
The families Isaiah Douglas has volunteered for consider him a hero, but the soft-spoken college freshman shrugs off their praise with a “that’s what I’m here for” attitude. Known as patient, kind, and wise beyond his 18 years, Isaiah has a knack for connecting with the most nervous and shy of teens coming to Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatsⓇ.
Spencer Reid represents an exciting direction for Inheritance of Hope: He is one of two recent hires that were served on a Legacy RetreatⓇ as a child of a diagnosed parent. “The start for my family with IoH was when we were served in May 2015,” he remembers. “My mom had Metastatic Breast Cancer, and not only was it a great, impactful trip, but the timing was very important for us, because my mom passed away just a month later. Our Legacy RetreatⓇ was the last thing we did together as a family.”
In January 2018, fashion designer and philanthropist, Kendra Scott provided a Legacy Retreat® for 10 families facing a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. IoH is dear to Kendra’s heart, and she and her company are quickly becoming dear to the heart of IoH.
|Kendra (left) and Holley (right)|
In our final installment of this series, Co-Founder and CEO Deric Milligan talks with Communications Manager Angie Howell about his memories, and what has changed in the past ten years.
IoH: What are some of the memories that stand out to you the most from the August 2008 Legacy RetreatⓇ to Lake George?
Deric: I remember each of the families and the instant connection we all felt because we were going through similar situations. The bond was simply incredible, and unlike anything I had ever experienced. One of the participants, Mark Contreras, had ALS. I remember his incredible strength and peace. Even though he struggled to speak, everyone was patient in allowing him to finish his thoughts. I remember riding the Comet, a wooden roller coaster, time after time with Mark Heinzelman as if there wasn't a care in the world, even as he battled cancer. I remember Shannon Dodd gleefully riding rides with sons Jakob and Tae just over a month before she died.
Communications Manager Angie Howell continues our conversations with members of the IoH family who were on our very first Legacy RetreatⓇ to Lake George in August 2008. Meg Hill served as the children’s counselor that weekend, and leading up to the retreat, began to write the curriculum that we still draw from today! Below, Meg shares her memories from ten years ago, and her thoughts about what is still the same.
IoH: Tell us what you remember about the August 2018 retreat at Lake George.
Meg: I was nervous being in charge of all the kids--Kristen and Deric had trusted me to do all the children’s groups and activities, and at one point, said to me, “you’re the kid person, tell us what to do!”
The Heinzelmans--Sue, Mark, Jessica, and Robbie--were one of seven families on our first Legacy RetreatⓇ to Lake George in New York during the summer of 2008. Our Communications Manager, Angie Howell, recently caught up with mom Sue to hear how the family is doing now. Mark passed away in October 2009, but Sue wants other families to know that “There is hope for the future.”
|The Heinzelman Family in Lake George, New York|
These days, Stephen Poquette is the director of fall retreats and internships at Camp Timberline in Estes Park, Colorado. Back in November 2016, his most important job was that of caregiver to his mom, Teresa Bloss. Stephen and his brothers Josh and Andrew Bloss attended Inheritance of Hope’s Legacy RetreatⓇ to New York City shortly before Thanksgiving that year, with their mom, for what turned out to be their last family vacation together.
|Stephen (left) with his mom and brothers at their NYC Legacy RetreatⓇ|