Retreat offers relief for families with children batting cancer

Having a child that is battling cancer can be the hardest thing a family goes through. That's why the Lighthouse Family Retreat offers a week of relaxation.
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Millions of families are impacted by pediatric cancer each year. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it typically impacts the entire family.

That’s why the Lighthouse Family Retreat invites those families to come each year to come make connections and enjoy 5 days of making connections, relaxing, and having fun.

“When a family is impacted with pediatric cancer, the complete family is impacted,” Rachel Farren, a volunteer with the Lighthouse Family Retreat, said. “The child is in the hospital going through treatment, the parents are struggling through the diagnosis of their child, the siblings are struggling as well because, you know, mommy and daddy aren’t home every day. And so, this group is really just here to love on those families.”

Many of the families in attendance this year told NewsChannel 7 that love makes a big difference.

“We do crafts, we go to the pool, and this is our environment while our parents are actually in what is called a small group environment called ‘common ground’,” Angie “AJ” Johnson, Lighthouse Family Retreat community of care manager, said.

Parents expressed that the opportunity to speak with other parents going through a similar experience is invaluable.

First-time attendees Stacie and Louis McNett, who came with their daughter Abbie from New York, said that they weren’t sure to expect when they came to the retreat, but said they are glad they came. They said the groups of parents talking to one another helped them realize they are not alone.

“At first, it’s like ‘I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do’, but as you start listening to everyone, you’re like ‘yeah I understand’ or ‘oh, I thought that way, too,’” Stacie McNett said.

Many attendees say they were not expecting the impact of the retreat to be so huge, but even just one day in and the connections are already being made.

“Lighthouse is a really great chance to just like make new friends and kind of have a time to just let go out everything like reality and just have fun with all your friends, and make new friends,” Evie, a volunteer at the retreat, said.

Volunteers said the retreat is completely funded by donations, so families do not have to pay to come.

If you would like to donate or volunteer with the Lighthouse Family Retreat, click here.

If you have a child in your family who is battling cancer and you would like to learn more about how to attend a retreat event, click here.