Last year the Kramers from Indiana went on their first family trip: an all-expenses-paid Legacy Retreat® in Orlando. Nolan, 5, and Aryka, 3, still talk about
visiting the Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks.
“They just let loose and didn't worry about their daddy being sick,” said their mother, Stephanie.
Their daddy, Fred, was diagnosed with leukemia two days before Aryka's first birthday in the summer of 2011. Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants required a two-hour drive, so Stephanie and Fred rented an apartment with Aryka in Indianapolis while Nolan stayed with his grandparents and attended preschool.
Stephanie worried about how the move would affect her children and how to tell Nolan and Aryka about Fred's illness. Fred entered remission in early 2012, but his health coincided with the passing of Stephanie's father.
“It was a lot of stress,” Stephanie said. “It all happened relatively fast.”
Hospital nurses told the Kramers about Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreats®. The opportunity to address the illness as a family encouraged the Kramers to apply.
“Fred was getting better physically, but mentally we were just exhausted,” Stephanie said. “He was in remission, but we didn't know what was next. I thought we should talk to people who have been through what we have.”
At the January 2013 Orlando Legacy Retreat®, Stephanie and Fred met parents from other families while Nolan and Aryka opened up with other children. Small group discussions about how and when to talk to children about their parent's illness helped Stephanie with one of her major concerns.
A year after the retreat, the Kramers stay in touch with the families they met in Orlando. They celebrate milestones on social media, Stephanie said.
Stephanie said the Inheritance of Hope retreat and its emphasis on legacy reminded her of the traditions she had with her grandparents. “I had never thought about leaving a legacy, but the retreat gave me a lot of good suggestions.”
She now makes an effort to create memories with Nolan and Aryka through little acts like recording herself reading stories or giving them special Christmas ornaments each year.
Fred is still in remission, and Stephanie is in a nursing program. Nolan enjoys kindergarten and firetrucks; Aryka likes princesses and started preschool. They both want to go back to Orlando, where their Legacy Retreat® gave them lasting legacies.