Boca Raton, Fla., – August 23, 2012—Bluegreen Vacations, a leader in the vacation ownership industry is preparing to support Deliver the Dream (DTD) for the second consecutive year. September 14-16, Bluegreen will host “families who have a child with leukemia” at their flagship resort, The Fountains in Orlando, FL. Just as they did last year, Bluegreen will open the resort to DTD, providing space for the organization to help those families alleviate stress, enhance coping skills and enjoy being together again as a family. Bluegreen, again, will have volunteers on site to assist those families with anything they need, and just like last year, Bluegreen employee Nhekia Laster will be there as a volunteer. However, this year Nhekia has the unique perspective of what it’s like to be a family hosted by DTD.
Nhekia discovered DTD at a Bluegreen Charity Fair a few years ago. As a mother to a special needs teenager, she says she just knew from within that she had to become a part of the organization, after watching the charity’s video of the families like hers and seeing how the organization made things happen for people with a variety of disabilities. Nhekia says she doesn’t believe in karma but she does know we all reap what we sow, so she volunteered for last year’s DTD retreat at The Fountains.
“I made a gallant effort to sow a harvest of kindness, smiles, fun and hope in those I connected with on that retreat,” she said. “I knew those children are like mine for that time, and when they left me I wanted their parents to know they were well cared for.”
“Special needs families ALWAYS need a break, and HARDLY ever ask for one so they do what it do to make it all happen,” she said. “The parents, the siblings, the grandparents, and the child are all affected in one way or another but life goes on. I see all children as special, disabled and able bodied alike, and I believe they all teach us something if we take the time to get to know them and their situations/disabilities.”
While volunteering at the Fountains in 2011, Nhekia became acquainted with Rebecca Hahessy, Program Director for Deliver the Dream and shared her family’s story. Hahessy said it’s rare to have people who get to experience both sides of the DTD experience. Typically, when it happens, it’s the hosted families that want to give back to the organization by volunteering, but in Nhekia’s case, she was invited after volunteering.
“It was actually difficult for me to accept the invitation, but after considering, I thought about the experience my daughter would gain,” Laster said. “Being a volunteer, I didn’t and never want to be looked at as having special privileges being a part of DTD and being a special needs mother too.”
Nhekia and her family attended DTD’s July retreat in Live Oak, FL, in July 2012 and were hosted with other families that have a child with cerebral palsy. Now, as this year’s retreat at The Fountains approaches, Nhekia says she’s bringing a new perspective to the table: “a sense of open-mindedness and trust.” As a hosted family, Nhekia says she got to feel the insecurity of pulling up to a location and a load of strangers supposedly here to help them, but after her experience she has a little more trust in people, and plans to blend more smoothly with her host family.
“I’m now encouraged more to get the kids at the retreat to interact with one another and get to know someone,” she says. “It prompts me to share an idea or two with the parent, and see if I can help just by listening. I see now that it can become part of my routine to welcome them and assure them, I am a mom just like you and give them my word on DAY 1, that all will be well when they are in my care.
Last year I felt more on assignment, but having been a hosted family, now I feel more connected with the underlying statement of what the RETREAT is all about: the bonding, the sharing, the tears, the connections, the information exchanges, the kids letting their hair down, and the parents resting a bit more than usual.”