Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 Family Retreat - Opening Day

This year's retreat involved 160 people, including 31 families and 8 young adults affected by disabilities. Volunteers came from three countries: China, America and Mexico.

 Our team of volunteers greeted the buses as the families arrived.
 We partnered every child with a local volunteer.
For the first time, some of our volunteers came from family participants from previous Family Retreats. The tallest young man, Leo, was difficult to handle in the past, but he has grown up and is now an eager volunteer to bless others.
We've gotten to know this family this year through day camps and picnics. It was our privilege to invite them to the family retreat.
Because of a cancellation, we were able to invite this young man back with his grandparents. He is the young man who can play Mozart or Beethoven on the piano.
In the last four photos, each father (or grandfather) was involved in our dad support group. Arguably, it was the most receptive dad group ever.
 Lewis and his grandmother are always a joy to be around.
Bert (in the forefront to the left) is now one of our most faithful volunteers. His buddy attends a special ed music school.
 Towards the end of opening ceremony, the Joni and Friends team surprised the kids with balloons.
 They also led us in our theme songs, including movements to "Fly" and "Everything's possible."

Rui Rui, who has replaced Dion as treasurer and volunteer coordinator, worked very hard to prepare the volunteers for this retreat. She is standing next to Leah.
 We first met this family through the Heart to Heart English classes that we offered for two years.
 Without fail, the parachute is always a favorite.
Of course, for my kids, nothing beats craft time ... except maybe a carnival or swimming, which came later.
It's amazing to watch these kids grow up. Through various projects, this is our third year to work with the twin girls.
One child loved this game so much that the Joni and Friends team let him take it home after the end of the retreat.
And of course, an event can't really be a celebration without this young man. He and his parents have faithfully been involved with most projects this year. His mother invited 5 of the families who came to this retreat, and she also went with us to Jianping last June.
 It didn't matter what "ability" an adult or child had, the evening was just simply fun.
 Games won stamp marks, which in turn added up to redeem prizes.
We had several young adults who did not allow a disability to stop them from serving.
 The smiles on their faces exemplify the story.
We will post day two of the retreat soon.
~ Kevin