Years and years ago when we were in the brainstorming and dreaming big phase of creating a program for Wil when he entered high school, we said we'd love to see the day he could go on the same 3-day spiritual retreat Woohoo had so greatly benefited from. It seemed like a long shot. At that point he'd never slept away from home except for Grandma's. What, when and where would he eat? When and where would he sleep? When and where would he ___________, _____________, and ____________? It was mind boggling to think about, yet, we continued to hold that up as a dream to one day realize.
Fast forward to this year. Wil is in a program that is in its third year of operation. The kids he started out with are now juniors - the year the school typically takes kids on the 3-day retreat. The decision was made to take all of the kids in his program on the same retreat, rather than splitting them up throughout the year. It made the most sense to the program to have them all be gone at the same time, and the staff could be made more available to assist if they were all together.
Word caught on that this group would be attending, and spaces quickly filled amongst the "typicals." They knew it would be a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Staff and student helpers were enlisted. I had e-mail exchanges, one-on-one meetings and phone calls for months prior to the retreat. All the what-and-whens were addressed, down to the very last detail. I couldn't have dreamed of better "customer service." I could and would go on and on, but the details of the retreat are to be kept secret and sacred, as to make the experience special for each new group attending. I will leave you with the the simple fact that if I'd made a list of everything he wanted and needed, then padded the list times 10, it wouldn't have come close to how
One of the very best things about the retreat, was the under-statement of the fact that this was the first one of its kind. Before, during and after, it was not a "thing." 60 juniors went on a retreat, and several of them just happened to have learning differences. It gave me great hope that there is a dawning of a new day. My dream is that one day it will be as politically incorrect and unimaginable to point out which percent of a group is "special," as it is to point out which percent is gay, of any particular race, or any other marginalizing distinction.
Tomorrow is the national Spread-the-Word-to-End-the-Word Day. Let's grab hands, sing "Kumbaya," and pledge to end all words that are disparaging, hurtful, hateful, and create division.