Parents of special-needs children offered retreats
By JACK PITCHER
Sep. 03, 2018
ORANGE, Va. (AP) — Parents of children with disabilities rarely, if ever, take time off from caregiving. Between setting up childcare, taking time to plan and the cost of travel, vacations often aren't worth it.
But caregiving can take a lot out of you.
That's where A Mother's Rest comes in. The Afton-based nonprofit, founded by Andrea Roberts in February 2017, provides affordable, three-night respite retreats at upscale bed and breakfasts for parents of special-needs children.
"Extra-needs parents are tired and worn out," Roberts said. "The idea for A Mother's Rest came from that."
A Mother's Rest started with retreats specifically for mothers. The organization since has expanded to hosting retreats for fathers and couples. It works with inns, asking them to offer rooms at a discounted rate of $50 per night.
Anyone with a special-needs child is eligible to sign up for the retreats, which have no set schedule so parents can spend their time how they want to. Some choose to relax and catch up on sleep, while others take the opportunity for recreational activities that they aren't able to do while caretaking.
A Mother's Rest has expanded quickly. Eighty parents went on retreats in 2017, and 250 will attend in 2018. There have been dozens of retreats this year across the country, from Virginia to Texas to Washington state.
This weekend, the Mayhurst Inn in Orange had all eight rooms booked for the retreat. Mayhurst owners Jack and Pat North provided their inn at a discounted rate.
Parents spent the weekend resting, socializing and sightseeing. None of the couples had met in person before the weekend, but it was clear from seeing them gathered around the inn's living room that they had bonded quickly.
The mood in the room was noticeably upbeat, as some parents noted they were coming off their first uninterrupted nights of sleep in weeks.
The weekend was the first vacation in 17 years for Olga and Luis Zapata. A nurse is sending the couple twice-daily updates about their son, who has a rare genetic disorder that causes seizures and keeps him from speaking.
For Luis Zapata, "no news is good news." He said he was enjoying time for himself for the first time in a long time.
Several of the parents said the sense of community among people going through the same thing has been helpful.
"Being able to get away, breathe and be surrounded by other people who have had a similar experience has been great," said Daniel Cafferty. "It's nice to know we're not crazy. It's not just us going through this."
Cafferty and his wife, Jennifer, have eight children, five of whom have special needs.
Roberts, a special-needs parent herself, is A Mother's Rest only employee. She said the organization is close to purchasing a house in Maryland that it will use as a full-time retreat.
Roberts knows firsthand the importance of taking time for oneself as a caregiver.
"I describe A Mother's Rest not just as a charity, but a health initiative," she said. "When you are caregiving 24/7, your body can't decompress, and you develop your own health issues. We want to give parents that free time to decompress."
Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com