Lauren Latimer vividly remembers her introduction to Inheritance of Hope, “When my mom first told me she wanted our family to go on an IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ, I was like, ‘Sorry. That doesn’t sound like fun. I don’t want to go on a cancer retreat.’” The Latimers--mom Karen, dad Rob, Lauren, and her sister Anna--attended the January 2016 retreat to Orlando over their daughters’ objections. Lauren, at the time 17, admits that her mom guilted her into going. Now a repeat IoH volunteer, she is more than happy to concede, “A depressing ‘cancer retreat’ is the exact opposite of what IoH is. By the end of the weekend, the volunteers and other families were my family, and I didn't want to leave. And, that is the consensus of everyone who comes on a retreat.”
Meet people who make inspiring hope possible!
Since the Strebe family attended an Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ in February 2014, Jon and Donna have only missed a handful. Between the two of them, they have volunteered at 12 retreats. That’s worth repeating--a dozen Legacy Retreats!
|The Strebe family at their Legacy RetreatⓇ in February 2014|
A chance click of the mouse led Bob Sauer to Inheritance of Hope (IoH), but his involvement since then has been nothing short of dedicated. While scrolling through charity partners on the Marine Corps Marathon website, Bob came across the IoH logo and double-clicked to learn more. He later received a bib through the marathon’s lottery program--meaning he could run without supporting a non-profit sponsor--but Bob was already hooked, and even decided to double his initial fundraising goal for IoH! By race time, Bob was leading Team IoH in fundraising for the Marine Corps Marathon, and funded two children on our November 2018 New York City Legacy RetreatⓇ.
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!”
Inheritance of Hope (IoH) is a non-profit organization that inspires hope in young families facing the loss of a parent. Through all-expenses-paid Legacy RetreatsⓇ, parents who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, along with their caregiver and children, are given the opportunity to make precious memories, receive tools for navigating this difficult time in their lives, and meet others with the same fears and challenges. IoH will host retreats in Orlando, California, Colorado, and New York throughout 2018.
For almost every family Inheritance of Hope serves, the Legacy RetreatⓇ starts at the airport. Some of these families have children who have never flown, and some have parents who wondered how they would ever fly again. While the individual stories change, these families are all traveling at very vulnerable times in their lives, with health considerations that extend far beyond the needs of an average traveler.
It is only because of the persistence and compassion of our retreat team, and its corporate relationships, that our diverse retreat participants arrive ready for the life-changing experience that awaits them. Many IoH families fly Southwest Airlines to our retreats, and through our relationship, IoH has found a friend with heart.
Shortly after 9/11, Gina Roes answered a call for counselors to come to New York City. Without a guaranteed job, she packed up, sold her house, and moved, with her dog, to Manhattan. This spirit of trust, compassion, and courage allows her to best serve Inheritance of Hope’s families.
Shelby Jo Lewis and her family attended the Inheritance of Hope NYC Legacy Retreat in 2014, just after her mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. At the time, Shelby wondered if she would fit in with others on the retreat and in the big city. “I’m from a tiny town in the South,” she explains, “and I wasn’t sure about this whole experience; but as soon as I saw the smile on our volunteer’s face, I knew it was going to be a great retreat.”
|Shelby and her family on their NYC Legacy Retreat in 2014.|
Julie Hull sums up her daily goals succinctly. “In our house, we say that love is the highest order of the day. Not perfection, but love.”
Those in the Inheritance of Hope family who know and love Julie will recognize that this is exactly how she approaches everything--from her position as IoH Volunteers Manager to each interaction with the families we serve. Julie is transparent in her compassionate way of striving to best love those in her path. Mom to a rising high school senior, Julie, her late husband Ken, and their son Sam were introduced to IoH in November 2011 when they attended the New York Legacy Retreat. She is not one to shy away from the painful realities of grief and single-parenting, and is refreshingly honest in telling other families that while her path has not been easy, she finds hope everyday to continue being the best parent she can be.
A Facebook post and a few clicks led Heidi Benson to Inheritance of Hope, and she has served on almost every Legacy Retreat since. A friend of a friend posted about their retreat experience as a volunteer, and as she read more, Heidi says she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of IoH, “Everything in my heart, all my passions, lined up with this.” Before she knew it, Heidi was interviewing to be a volunteer.