This past weekend, we relaunched our retreat programming by hosting 29 ladies new to GWG retreats at Trout Lake in Stroudsburg, PA. To say it was a success is an understatement. These new GWGs were amazing- supportive, inspirational, enthusiastic, great listeners- and we’re so grateful to them for truly making the weekend special. Here’s what these ladies told us were their favorite parts of the weekend:
1. Knowing that you’re not alone by meeting others who are so understanding. Our attendees said they were so relieved to finally feel comfortable in a group and not have to be fake about how sick they actually are or pretend to be feeling better.
2. “Here, we’re all the sick girl, so you have to be something else.” Not being the only “sick girl” in the room is incredibly freeing. You want to take a nap? We all want to take a nap. Let’s do that, and then get to know each other beyond our “sick girl” status.
3. The opportunity to attend a retreat without having to pay. We all know the stress that chronic illness can have on our finances, which why we worked so hard to make this retreat fully-funded.
4. Breakout groups with the chance to talk openly in a safe environment- and to be listened to. Our breakout groups included basic sessions on life with IBD, j-pouches, and ostomies and more in-depth sharing about work and school with IBD, coping with guilt/PTSD, and family planning and pregnancy.
5. Getting to know other GWGs and hearing their stories. Meeting others who have gone through some of the same experiences as you is so comforting. You get to see them thriving despite all they’ve gone through, and even do things they didn’t think they could, like a high ropes course! Watching the positivity among these girls as they cheered each other on was amazing.
6. Late night conversations around the campfire. When the sun goes down and small groups inevitably start talking, it’s amazing what gets shared. Sometimes, the most profound connections are made in the most laid-back environment.
7. Kintsugi. “It’s a visual representation of how I feel about my body, in a way that makes me feel beautiful and not broken.”
8. A place to belong and being able to be open and let people in. “We’re out in the wilderness, but this is the safest place I’ve even felt. Even though I’m an only child, you’re all my sisters now!”
9. Making friends for life. “You can have a really supportive partner or family, but they can never truly understand the loneliness that we experience.” Loneliness was a common theme when stories were shared, and these ladies just went home with a list of 35 new friends that they can reach out to anytime of the day or night.
10. “Feeling like this experience is only the beginning! Before this retreat, I didn’t know anyone with IBD. Now, we’re already making plans to keep getting together.”
You can help to make sure that we can continue to offer these retreats at no- or low-cost to participants! Our Virtual 5K this year is September 7-8 and all funds raised will go towards our 2020 New Attendee Retreat. Registration is open now! Additionally, you can start a Facebook birthday fundraiser with just a few clicks, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any other fundraising ideas you’d like to pursue! We couldn’t do any of this without your ongoing support.
Your Girls With Guts Board of Directors and volunteers