On April 30, I spent another inspiring, enlightening, and uplifting day with a group of wounded warriors' wives at the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado for SPA Day. Named for Support, Purpose, and Appreciation, this event for wives and caregivers is entering its eleventh year! More than 300 women apply for SPA Day, but at this time we are only able to accommodate thirty attendees. Everyone gets a spa treatment in the morning, then we gather for lunch by the pool. During this miniretreat, women share and connect with others who are experiencing parallel struggles. This sharing helps all of them build their coping skills and find useful resources.
SPA Day may have been my brainchild, but pulling it off is definitely a group effort! I had loads of help and support, and want to take a moment to send my heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this year's gathering so meaningful and special.
Huge thanks to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. This stellar organization is the preeminent foundation empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers; the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill, or injured veterans. 2017 was the first year that the Elizabeth Dole Foundation sponsored SPA Day, and I'm so grateful for their support! I hope this partnership will continue for many years to come.
My unending appreciation to the Hotel del Coronado, our amazing venue for the event. It was a year of firsts, as this was also the first year that the hotel generously donated all the food! Having seen the impact SPA Day has on its attendees, hotel management wanted to honor them with a five-star catered event. The appetizers and mimosas at the pool started the day off so elegantly, and serving a catered lunch on the lawn really brought the event to another level. And what a fantastic idea to include the wounded warriors in the celebration! Everyone loved the Spa Director, Holly’s talk and the hotel will definitely get repeat visits to the spa after treating them with with such personal kindness. So to everyone at the Hotel del Coronado: I truly appreciate you helping me help the wives of wounded warriors and their families. Collaborating with you is a dream, and every year you help make SPA Day even more spectacular. I’ll be sending you lots of photos and a formal thank-you note, but wanted to say a quick THANK YOU for your graciousness and generosity!
Many thanks to Southern Caregiver Resources Center and their program Operation Family Caregiver. OFC was developed by the Rosalynn Carter Institute to support military and veteran caregivers, an amazing organization that coaches the families and friends of newly returning service members and veterans to manage difficult transitions. Lorie Van Tilburg, director at SCRC, was an amazing partner this year! She helped me handle the RSVPs, organize the day's events, and even attended to give us an inspirational talk about the strength it takes to ask for help. I'm so grateful to her valuable work in the community, and willingness to collaborate for the past four years. I couldn’t do this without her help.
Sincere thanks to the wives of wounded warriors who took a few hours out of their colossally busy lives caring for children and spouses to join me at SPA Day. I'm so glad you carved out time to allow others to nurture you with massage and listen to your incredible stories. I always envisioned SPA Day as a time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate, but I'm absolutely thrilled it has become an event that encourages bonding with other wives of wounded warriors, formation of informal support groups, and sharing of resources that help your families heal. Thank you for the tireless work you do to support your families, and for sharing your experiences so that others may learn and grow alongside you.
Finally, thanks to our wounded warriors who supported their wives in taking a day for healthy self care, and joined us after lunch for an afternoon to celebrate their marriages! We were so honored to meet these brave warriors and see firsthand the strong love these couple have for each other. This was the first time we invited the husbands along for the party, recognizing that couples who play together stay together! The hotel served snacks and craft beers while these brave men enjoyed themselves at the pool all afternoon. I was one of the last to leave as I felt so honored to meet our nation's heroes and hear their inspiring stories.
SPA Day is, hands down, one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. I’m so grateful that this unique event is growing as more organizations and generous individuals come on board to support it. By helping wounded warriors and their spouses, we help ourselves become more compassionate, more aware, and more connected to our fellow human beings. It may just look like a relaxing day of snacks and spa treatments, but it's so much more. SPA Day has become a platform for sharing, bonding, and nudging a brave group of caregivers along their healing journeys.
Thanks again to all who made this year's SPA Day spectacular!