Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Inaugural Australian CHASA Retreat

When my mother was pregnant with me, my (then) 4 year old sister was diagnosed with cancer. She had a brain tumour, which thankfully responded to treatment. My sister was at the very first Camp Quality held in Australia and has remained a volunteer ever since. As a child, I was jealous, ooooh I was jealous, of all the awesome things she did at camp. It sounds stupid now, but as a child, I wished I had cancer too.

After seeing the positive impact Camp Quality had for my sister, I was eager for Max to have similar opportunities. I wanted him to meet other kids who've had strokes and will understand it, far more than I ever will. I searched online for hours trying to find similar organizations and found virtually nothing. One particular organisation, runs a camp for brain injured children and their families. However, due to limited funding, we've been knocked back from attending. Twice.

My online friends through  CHASA   have been an amazing support crew, who've helped me navigate my path on this journey. They hold a family retreat every year, but being an American organisation, it's held in (surprise surprise) America. The flight alone is kinda out of my price range.

Around a year ago, I bumped into some fellow Aussies on the CHASA page and we decided to organise our own retreat. This proved to be easier said than done. We'd message each other backwards and forwards for a few days, then we wouldn't chat again for a few months. Our lives were hectic, none of us had the time to organise a big retreat.

Eventually, we agreed we'd find a place, pick the dates and book. We'd worked out a lot of the details already through our previous discussions, so a week later, it was all locked in. We 'advertised' it on some CHASA pages and invited others to join us. But in the end, it was just 3 families who attended, and it was perfect. Finally meeting, Lucinda and Kerry, plus their families, was easily the highlight of my year.
We stayed at a Holiday Park on the border of NSW and Victoria. Here's a few pics.....

This is Lucinda and little Toby (2.5years old)

This is big Toby (4.5years) and his daddy

It looks pretty tropical and expensive, but it was just a nice Holiday Park, which was totally affordable. We chose to stay mid-week, so we could have an extra night without the extra cost and the park was beautifully quiet. Two of us stayed in poolside Villas, and another family camped Taj Mahal style. We'd tentatively planned a few places to visit, but every darn one of them was closed. Luckily, the jumping pillow and the swimming pool, kept the kiddos entertained.

Max and little Toby

Big Toby having a swim

If you look closely, you'll see all the boys in this photo (only just). It was sooooo hard getting pics of them together

Max enjoying the water, though we'd just had an argument over the dummy

I love this picture of big Toby at the park

Little Toby chillin by the pool with his daddy

Max was easily amused by the kitchen cupboards with no child proof locks. He's clapping himself here

The sunrises and sunsets were priceless....

If you stood on our veranda and looked right, you'd see the sunrise over lake Hume

Looking straight ahead from our Verandah

Looking left from our Verandah, it's sunrise over the pool

On our 2nd last day, Lucinda, Kerry and I had booked in for a deluxe pedicure (thanks Lucinda!!) with champagne and nibblies. I've never had a pedicure before and OMG it was bliss. The best part, was having one whole hour without the kidlets, so we could actually talk. It was the first time, any of us had truly spoken to another person about being the mummy of a 'hemi-kid'. It was the first time, I'd been in a room with other people who could truly understand. It was a small moment in time, where I didn't feel alone.

We all chose purple nail polish because it's the colour of Pediatric Stroke Awareness

I've always wanted to take a picture like this. Totally in heaven

On our final night, we tried one last time to get a picture of the three boys together.....

At least they're all in the same frame

I think we all felt the sadness that came with having to say goodbye. I long for these families to live in Melbourne, so we can catch up more often. Instead, we're planning the next retreat, and it's going to be bigger and better. We all want our children to grow up, knowing they're not alone. So, if you're an Aussie hemi-parent reading this, put the dates on the calendar NOW- November 18th-22nd 2013. We'll announce more details soon.

In finishing, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Kerry and Lucinda, it was an honor to meet you both and I miss you already. Big apologies to Micky who was unable to attend because she's (inconveniently) about to have a baby. I'd like to send big cuddles to little Toby and big Toby, you both have such beautiful souls. Also, thanks to 'the daddies' Rob, Paul and Jason, not only was it lovely meeting you lads, I'm very thankful you looked after the boys so we could get pampered (maybe next year, we'll allow you a boys day out).

This final photo, was taken just before we said goodbye. I still get a lump in my throat when I look at it, because we were about to return to the loneliness of our reality. I know, this is only the beginning of a long lasting friendship and that thought alone, makes my heart smile.

See you next year ladies xxxx

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. So pleased that you got to have this retreat. It looks like a positively lovely place to stay and I enjoyed the shots - especially the swimming with dummy, purple toes and banana lounge view. Hope it was the first of many such restoring retreats together and some long lasting deep friendships - for both parents and kids! :-) Miss Trish

  2. So glad you got away for a few days I hope this year will be bigger & better and it continues because you all need support as well as a get away to recharge. Good luck to you all :.....Maree