USA — More than 56 million Americans live with a disability. With so many families navigating the day-to-day challenges of disability, it is vital that they have a place where inclusion and acceptance aren’t a question. Joni & Friends Family Retreat program makes a way for families living with disabilities to have a time of rest, refreshment in Jesus, and find connection with other special needs families who understand the demands, struggles, and incomparable joys that come with disability. Watch how this program has impacted the Cooper family.
Everywhere we turn there’s always somebody representing Jesus and reminding us that He loves us and that we’re all created special. My name is Angel Cooper from Pelahatchie. This is my 13-year-old daughter Ainsley and her sister Arley, she’s six. Family retreat is unique for us. We know that Arley is going to be able to do anything the other kids are doing.
I got to meet new people and I got to hula hoop and swim in the pool. I love doing crafts. I danced with Caroline and just have fun with other people.
She’s going to be with kids like her. She’s not going to be wishing that one day she can walk so she can do the stuff that everybody else is doing. Someone makes a way while we’re here for her to be able to do everything and feel included. When we come here we have assistants to spend time with her so that I can rest.
I enjoy coming and meeting new people, other parents who can tell me about other resources to help me with Arley. We’ve made friends with several families and also met people who live less than ten miles from me who become like friends and family that otherwise I would never gotten a chance to meet them.
It’s definitely easier for me to connect with other people at family retreat. People here understand what it’s like to go through things with siblings and other people with disabilities on a daily basis.
Family retreat is like our safe place. We feel welcomed. I feel like anything I need I can ask and everyone around will do whatever they can to get us anything we need to make sure we’re happy and feel loved and accepted.
When you leave it’s just sad to see the place go. You just can’t wait until you come again next time. It’s just an awesome place to be with our family.
About Joni and Friends
For 40 years, Joni and Friends has provided the hope of the Gospel and practical resources to people affected by disability around the globe. Ministry programs include Wheels for the World, Family Retreats, the Christian Institute on Disability, and church ministry training. Joni and Friends also delivers inspirational media such as the Joni and Friends radio program and podcasts. To find out more, please visit www.joniandfriends.org.
- Global News Alliance, Retreat Provides Inclusion and Acceptance for the Cooper Family
- Joni and Friends, Official Website