It's hard to compare our experience this year as a volunteer family with our experience last year as a retreat family. Last year we were served with the intention of giving our family a week at the beach without having to think about anything. This year, we had the opportunity to give the Garcia family the same thing. It was great to see our entire family jump in and take joy in serving, cleaning, and playing with Caden, a five year old fighting leukemia, and his sister Coralyn. Yet, the opportunities to serve didn't end just with our assigned retreat family. Often heading out onto the grassy field and kicking a soccer ball around or playing nine square with a younger partner gave another retreat parent a break as well.
One of the best parts about being on the volunteer side of things was hanging out with the kids during Flip Flop, a time when retreat parents got a chance to spend time and share stories together. I was one of six volunteers assigned to the Guppies, eight boys ages 5-8, seven of whom were from retreat families and four who were cancer patients themselves. Our first morning was a little rocky figuring out how to keep everyone engaged, but once we got rolling it was a great time. Each morning we'd spend an hour at one of the pools and then spend another hour playing games or doing a craft. Last year as a retreat dad I couldn't figure out how the volunteers knew my own kids so well, but now that I've been on the volunteer side I understand that the chunk of time together each day helps to build those relationships.