Santa Rosa - When a child has cancer, the entire family is affected. All the treatments and doctor's appointments can create a lot of stress for the patient, parents, and siblings. That's why Lighthouse Family Retreat gives families dealing with childhood cancer a weeklong getaway to help restore their relationships, and their hope. The Atlanta-based organization works with communities along 30A to host 12 retreats every year. Many of them take place at Gulf Place in Santa Rosa Beach.
Megan Ward was a thriving 16-year-old before she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a year and a half ago. "I didn't have a summer last summer because I slept and was going through treatment, it's been difficult but I've been strong, I've survived it," said Megan. Now she is helping others as a volunteer for Lighthouse Family Retreat. "We just bring them here to get them away from the hospitals, to get away from the treatments, to get away as a family and just kind of be away from the junk that comes with childhood cancer so they can just laugh, reconnect as a family and find hope in God and something that is so hard to find hope in," said executive director, Chris Woodruff.
Hope. Something the Brown family from DeFuniak Springs has clung to the last 2 1/2 years as their daughter Anna fought acute lymphoblastic lymphoma luekemia. "It's been full of ups and downs and incredible blessings," said mother Misty Brown. One of those blessings, a Lighthouse Family Retreat where the health of the entire family is the focus. "Kids get to be kids and swim, at that same time the parents are off in what we call "Common Grounds" and in "Common Grounds" they are going to sit with a mentor couple that is going to give them the opportunity to sit together as parents and adults and talk about what it's like to deal with childhood cancer," said Woodruff.
For Megan, volunteering is part of her healing process. "It makes me so grateful and so thankful to be able to serve people because I know what they are going through and how hard it is."
Little Anna has been in remission since April of 2010, her last chemo treatment is next month. Megan hopes to find out later this week that she is now cancer-free.