Mushers, massage therapists helped make retreat a success

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Something wonderful happened last month. It was not the sort of thing that would make headlines or ever get written down for posterity. Rather it was the quiet act of simple, selfless kindness.

In mid-January, twenty three families from all over Alaska gathered together at Solid Rock Camp to share some of the challenges — and joys — that come with raising children who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASDs are the central nervous system (and sometimes physical) damages people experience due to their biological mother having consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The disabilities created by the prenatal exposure set the affected individuals up for a lifetime of misunderstanding, struggle and confusion. And the people who love them — their families, their friends, and even their communities — are impacted as well.

So, once a year, families come together to play, learn, relax and renew themselves. At the FAScinating Families Camp, the children are "normal." There is no need for special explanations as to why the kids might have poor impulse control, poor judgment, or not understand a string of instructions. The parents can let down their guard, knowing respite staff is keeping the kids safe and happy, while the parents themselves seek strength from one another and the various workshops.

Wonderful? Yes.

Restful? Yes.

But the real kindness occurred behind the scenes as the good people of the Peninsula stepped in to serve and quietly pamper these weary parents. Local mushers came together to give the children dogsled rides. And Heather Rasch and Star Ames, local massage therapists, volunteered their time to make sure every parent received a time of healing touch (in the form of freechair massage). The two women gave up several hours of their weekend to serve and bring renewal, and did so without pay. What a wonderful gift!

Please, if you see a musher, thank him or her for reaching out. And if you are in the market to give someone (or yourself) a gift of massage, check out Heather or Star at Mountain Magic Massage (252-4460). Give them your business (and thank them again for us!). We at Volunteers of America are so grateful for "hands-on" support from the people of the peninsula, and hope that each of these kind people receives, in turn, even a measure of the blessings that they have given.

Patricia Cochran

Prevention Services Director

Volunteers of America AK., Inc.


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