• Jennifer Spiroff

Retreats for Specials

Retreats For Those Who Are Special

I have a new drive. A new goal. A new vision that is exploding out of my heart and has been consuming most of my time as I devise my plan, bring together my main team and get the ball rolling.

It all began a few months back when I was sitting in my driveway with my new neighbor as we got to know each other. She happens to be a quadriplegic. She was in an accident 5 years ago and her life changed forever. At the time I met her, she was engaged to be married (has since wed) and a single mother to 3 girls. As we spoke I talked of work. Currently, I am a yoga teacher on the Eastside (referring to the Seattle, WA area). I have a major in massage therapy as well as a degree in Holistic Nutrition and had been batting around the idea of wellness retreats. Her response was about how she would LOVE to do yoga. How sitting in her chair all day, her body gets very achy. I asked if she had been getting any bodywork work done and she said no. She had been unable to find anyone who would work with her.

That was all I needed. A spark was triggered and I had a new mission. To find yoga for my neighbor and see what I can do about some kind of bodywork. I figured being in and around Seattle, plenty of good doers, this would be a short mission, for certainly programs like this exist in the handfuls. Boy was I wrong! Not only does it barely exist, but there is only one organization that I could find in the area. Adaptive Yoga out of Seattle, Washington. https://adaptiveyoganw.com/ They teach yoga to wheelies, those with spinal cord injuries, MS, etc., and go through great lengths for proper training. I made contact and immediately signed up volunteering to teach.

My first day was a bit of a surprise as I fought horrible traffic in a not-so-good part of town to arrive at what Google said was my destination. An old senior center and class was being held on the 2nd floor where getting to the elevator from the lower level is a whole story in itself. As far as class goes, it was awesome. A wonderful thing to be a part of. After volunteering a few times, I asked the pressing question. "Why are you not holding class in a yoga studio? Why are your students not experiencing the same as any other student taking a yoga class? Where's the atmosphere, the zen, the dim lights, (senior center = fluorescent lighting) maybe some candles and soft music?" Their answer was clear. The trouble was finding a yoga studio that would allow them to practice. They have a lot of trouble finding a studio that would let out their space for their cause. When they do find a studio that is willing to participate, the trouble comes down to the cost is so high it makes it unaffordable. Simply put, the students of Adaptive Yoga were not being allowed the experience of a normal yoga studio setting. Here I was looking at 6 people in chairs who had gone through a great ordeal just to get to yoga class and not to mention, are consistently there. These 6 people with a desire to have yoga in their life were being turned away by the yoga community itself. It was so backwards from what yoga is truly all about, I had a hard time believing it.

So with that, new mission. Talk to the owner of one of the studios I teach at. Her studio has great access for people with disabilities. Surely she would be interested in working with this group. She always talks about love, integrity, do good for others, etc. I ran the idea past her. Her reaction back was that of unappealing confusion. She couldn't understand how people in wheelchairs "could do yoga" and was clearly not up to being a part of it. I almost hit the floor. How could this studio owner who is always preaching love and enlightenment? … does she not understand all the depths to yoga? … did I not use my words well enough to be understood? … I missed something...did I miss something?... these were thoughts that quickly went through my head as I fumbled with my words and said "Yoga is so much more than a yoga pose and people like myself assist them with movement. The rest of their practice comes from within." Other than that, I didn't know what to say. As in the words of George Castanza from Seinfeld, "I am speechless. I have no speech". But, I now understood what the owners of Adaptive Yoga had been talking about and what they were going through in their quest to find studio space.

That brings me to today. Right now. A fire has been set ablaze below me and I now know exactly what it is I need to do. Extensive research has brought about some interesting facts. One is that the world is full of retreats. Another more interesting fact however is special needs retreats are pretty much nonexistent. That is where I step in. Bringing all my education and experiences together and creating something spectacular that I can offer to those who want the experience and are simply not being given the opportunity. Retreats. Luxury retreats for special needs to be precise. Heck, retreats are a dime a dozen. Retreats for special needs, I'm talking any type of luxury retreat that is designed around any special need, not so easy to come by. Camps, that's another story and it depends on the illness/disease. But a luxury retreat for wheelies? I have yet to find one anywhere, worldwide! Is it difficult to bring something like that together? Absolutely! Looking for mansions to rent out on the beach that has an elevator is not easy to find, but guess what, I found one. I also found a guy who will ship 4 wheel drive wheel chairs that can go through the sand easily and sit in the surf! How cool is that?! Not only will I be hosting a retreat for spinal cord injuries and MS, but kiddos with cerebral palsy along with their parent/s. Why? Because a.) it's possible b.) it's a service wanted and not offered and c.) these people deserve it! Not that there isn't anyone who doesn't deserve a lap of luxury, but does the Microsoft wife really need another retreat to choose from? I think she's covered. The ones who are not covered are those who could really use some pampering, relaxation, and transformation. A retreat where they can relax with other families going through the same struggles and enjoy some encounters that are not normally available to them.

Therefore, I have many plans under way, have found multiple venues and am connecting with people nationwide as I put the calendar together for the coming year.

Retreats included so far:

Parents with children who have cerebral palsy (a long weekend of divine pampering)

Children with cerebral palsy

High functioning autistic teens with a parent

Women, survivors of breast cancer

Paraplegics, quadriplegics, MS, spinal cord injuries and a friend/partner

Women dealing with abuse/alcoholism from their spouse.

How you can help:

As I network and search for team members it is coming quite clear that finding the right people can be a little harder than I had first predicted. People who would be interested in helping and have experience in the following, please send me a little note on your area of expertise and what part of the world you reside in.

Massage Therapist – Has experience in working with special needs. For both physical and mental.

Counselor – Specifics – I have three retreats in the planning for high functioning autistic teens. I need 2 "camp counselors" who have experience with this population and come with endurance to keep up for 3-4 days of snowboarding/skiing, hiking, white-water rafting and are not afraid to go on a boat ride.

Counselor – Specifics – I have 1-2 retreats for cerebral palsy children in the planning stage. I need 2 "camp counselors" who have experience with this population and the endurance to participate and hang with the kiddos for 3-4 days. Ideally, but not necessary, comfortable and experienced in the water with children who have this condition so that the kids can have pool/hot tub time.

Counselor/therapist – People who have experience with women in abusive relationships.

Chef – A great chef who can easily accommodate for 12-18 people and all their dietary restrictions. All organic meals (or as organic as possible) and feels comfortable giving 1 or 2 interactive meal lessons with guest going over nutrition and meals that are easy to pack up and take with.

Nails, Facials, and massage that are mobile.

I am in the process of creating a team nation wide including those who would like to manage a retreat in their state.

I am also taking all suggestions and interest from individuals and 501c3's who are interested in holding a retreat for their group.

Together we can all make this happen.

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