A Very Special Florida Retreat

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After an intense two days, 13 Shluchim couples are heading back to their communities and families, invigorated, energized, rested and armed with new insight and inspiration. These 13 couples were participants in Yaldei Shluchei HaRebbe’s 6th Regional Parent Respite Retreat in Ft Lauderdale FL.

For the Shluchim raising children with special needs, the opportunity for a little bit of respite is huge. Between the stress and challenge of running a community and the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a child with special needs as well as their other children, these Shluchim don’t have a second to breathe. The Parent Respite Program is one of the most appreciated services that Yaldei offers Shluchim raising children with special needs.

The program offers a much needed opportunity for education, support and reprieve for Shluchim in these situations. This is a chance for parents to educate themselves on how to best support their entire family.

Sessions were given by trained mental health professionals and educators, attendees also have the opportunity to share their own personal experience with others and enjoy an atmosphere of encouragement, camaraderie and support.

The retreat is two day event designed to give these busy and overburdened community leaders a chance to take recharge their batteries with the peace of mind knowing that their children and themselves will be well taken care of. Yaldei covers the expense of babysitters and transportation. The retreat is fully sponsored by generous donors and comes at no cost to the Shluchim. It truly is a safe haven.

Parents arrived Monday afternoon to the Courtyard by Marriott in Ft. Lauderdale. The program was hosted at the beautiful, newly expanded campus of Chabad of Ft. Lauderdale by Rabbi Moshe Meyer Lipszyc, where parents dined on an elegant, gourmet, private, sit down dinner catered by Shaike’s catering. After dinner the mothers were treated to a spa night at the Stonewater Spa Boutique the fathers gathered for a late night “swim and sing” kumzits.

On Tuesday morning the parents settled down for a full day of workshops. The retreat puts a large emphasis on making sure the sessions are built around the most pressing and critical issues shluchim face on a daily basis. The program is meant to provide shluchim with resources and answers to the specific and unique challenges they face given their position. Where else will they find others who understand so keenly their unusual situations?  Workshop subjects included creating a Healthy Family – Dealing with the stress of raising a child with special needs and The Family IEP – creating the family team, led by Rabbi Dr and Mrs Yosef and Chana Shagalow.

Rabbi and Mrs Shagalow are shluchim to Minneapolis, MN where they also work as a Clinical Psychologist and the Director of the centralized agency for Jewish special needs respectively, and raised their 4 children including their oldest daughter with special needs. Mrs Shagalow shared her feelings on being present at the retreat by saying, “I think back to the years of raising our oldest daughter alone in Minnesota and I wonder how different it would have been if we would have had a Yaldei. If we could have gone to a retreat like this, experienced the support and camaraderie. After watching what goes on here for these parents and their families, Yaldei has my heart.”

After lunch, mothers and fathers split up into breakout support sessions and had a chance to really open up to one another, share their stories and bond. The parents’ feedback tells us that these sessions are much needed and appreciated. They shared the stories, resources, laughter and tears of women and men who speak the same language.

The couples were treated to a relaxing post-dinner cruise aboard the Lady Chateau, where they were able to kick back and enjoy an evening on the ocean while reviewing the day’s highlights and sharing their experiences. Breakfast on Wednesday may have brought the program to an end, but the support and camaraderie is only just beginning as parents leave the respite program with renewed energy, new perspectives and strength to return home and continue their incredible community work.

The program was led by Gershon Sabol and coordinated by Yaldei’s Program Director Sholly Weiser, Dovid Leib Shur and Layah Shagalow. A special thank you to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky and Mr. Moshe Tabacinic for helping make this program possible.

For more information and to donate visit www.yaldei.com or call 646-558-5800.

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