Last month was the second Girls With Guts women’s retreat. If you’re unfamiliar with what our retreat is about, here is a snippet from our information packet:
“The Girls With Guts Retreat is a weekend-long event providing opportunities for women aged 18+ with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and/or ostomies to foster friendships and learn ways to improve their lives emotionally, mentally, and physically. Girls With Guts recognizes the importance of surrounding one’s self with supportive, positive, and encouraging individuals who inspire each other to move into the future with heads held high, free of any shame previously associated with the disease.”
Sounds pretty sweet, eh? I mean, I’m not here to toot my own horn, but this idea that I had two years ago has turned into this amazing weekend long event that has and will continue to change lives. That paragraph up there really says it all in regards to what we try to accomplish in just a weekend, and so far, we’ve been pretty successful.
The retreat itself takes a full year to plan and there are learning curves along the way. Right now, it’s only December and I’m already planning out next year’s weekend but because we haven’t released any of the details of it, I can’t tell you where we’re going. (Oregon 2015). Each year we’ve decided to move the location around the U.S. so we can try to reach as many people as possible. We know that traveling is expensive and it can also cause a lot of anxiety in our community, so our theory is if we can come to you, it will be less stressful. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful for us to plan events this way! Because each year is in a different state, each site is completely different, and each climate is different, it’s like a whole new event every time.
Here is what we can and do take with us each year:
We want this event to be affordable
GWG knows that being sick can cost a lot of money. We WANT people to come to the retreat, so that means we try to subsidize the cost for you. Each year we work hard to get sponsors to help with the costs so that way we can charge less for you to attend. We’re always looking for awesome sponsors to help us with this giant task, if you have anyone in mind who would be great, please email me at Jackie@GirlsWithGuts.org.
We want to go to cool places
Since traveling is expensive, we want to make sure that you go to a cool location. However, when it comes to picking a location we run into a lot of snags…maybe they don’t have the right amount of bathrooms in the right places available at the right times. It has to be within an hour of the airport. The location has to provide meals that are IBD-friendly. We have to be close to a hospital. It has to be reasonably priced. Finding and securing a location that meets all of these needs is really hard, and we know in the end that not everyone is going to be happy with our choice, but we do the best we can to achieve a successful weekend.
We want to educate
Each year we’ve brought in speakers that we think will really enhance the weekend and bring some knowledge bombs for our ladies. A huge part of GWG’s mission and the point of this weekend is to educate ourselves on our diseases, so that way we can go out and educate the rest of the world. This year we brought in an OBGYN who is doing specific research about IBD and women’s bodies. The information that she brought was mind boggling. We’ll be posting a video of this soon, so please check out our Vimeo page for updates!
This is not a vacation
Ok, hear me out on this one. While so much of this weekend is about hanging out and doing cool things with old and new friends, that is not the entire reason we do this retreat. We do not ask you to travel across the country and spend your money so you can sit around on a beach and sun bathe. While that sounds great, our retreat is designed to do more than just relax you. We want you to leave with a network of other women who understand your disease and who will be there for you when you need them most.
We do that by providing activities that you can bond over and activities where you can learn more about yourself by venturing out of your comfort zone. We want you to be relaxed and enjoy your time, but we also want you to try new things and meet new people. In my perfect vision of the retreat, ladies come to us for a weekend, they do fun things, they meet new friends, they learn more about IBD and they leave changed people. THEN they call their new friends and plan relaxing beach vacations.
Time is limited
Time is valuable to everyone involved in the retreat, whether they are planning or attending. I work a full-time job and also run GWG, so planning this thing takes a lot of my time. I use almost a week each year to go scout out new sites, and then another week to actually attend the retreat. You as the attendee take four days away from your job and family and busy schedules to attend. We are so conscious of what it means to be gone for that long. We jam-pack our weekend with activities, and education sessions because we have to. It’s a whirlwind weekend, and we try to build in a lot of rest time because we need it, but we also have goals. We want every lady who attends to leave with new tools to make their lives with IBD that much better.
The GWG retreat is arguably our most important program that we have. So many of them come to us alone, scared and feeling helpless. To see them making these connections with other women makes me so proud of each and every one of them for stepping out of their comfort zones and working to help us at GWG to create something great. Something that I hope will go on for years and years, ideally changing more lives that we could ever imagine. What I think that our attendees may not realize is how much a part of GWG they really are. Girls With Guts and our programs would be nothing without these ladies who give us their time, money and their hearts and for that I am forever thankful that other people also believe in my dream.
For more information about the 2014 retreat please click here. We’re still in the early planning phases for the 2015 retreat, so check back for details. Hope to see you there!
Published On: December 08, 2014