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Sherry and Joe Anicich of the Purple Project are hosting a retreat of love and hope for grieving parents and grandparents Thursday, July 21 through Sunday 24th at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, Illinois. The lovely, wooded 50-acre campus of the Portiuncula provides a peaceful environment and a safe place to join people of all faiths and from all walks of life, who share similar journeys through grief. FRANKFORT, Ill. — June 16, 2016 — PRLog — Joe Anicich says he wants grieving families to know, “You don’t have to walk alone.” Their three-day retreat schedule is a thoughtful blend of sharing and wellness sessions with: Benjamin Allen, a grief recovery specialist, and author of the book, Out of The Ashes: Healing in the Afterloss, who shares how his search brought him to a place of peace. As with other individuals, Benjamin is still on a journey of healing. Mary Anne and the staff of the Red Kayak Institute provide deeper connections with nature in a morning kayak outing. Time spent on the water is also designed to inspire lessons on life. Mary Anne and staff of RKI ask individuals facing life challenges to push away from shore…

Red Kayak Represented at Giving Dupage! 2016 DuPage Human Race on Saturday, April 30th in Downers Grove, IL The Red Kayak Institute was on the run again. Last year we needed our paddles, but this year we had fun in the sun. This was our third year participating in Giving DuPage 5K Run/Walk event benefiting charities in DuPage County. It was a great opportunity to raise funds and visibility for RKI.  Our team was 20 strong and thoroughly enjoyed the event. RKI received a portion of the race registrations for our team to help continue our efforts with our retreats.!  Thank you for your continued support! View last year’s video below where Team RKI was captured in action!

RKI has been awarded a $5,000 grant from The Friendship Fund to fund general operating expenses for the organization. The Friendship Fund is a Boston-based organization that provides support for a wide range of educational, environmental, health-related and cultural interests. We are humbled by the level of support provided to our small organization from The Friendship Fund and their recognition of our efforts to provide a unique healing experience for people facing physical and emotional challenges. This level of recognition will help RKI as the organization pursues additional funding to support operations and retreat programs for 2016. We already have the 4th Annual Edward Cancer Center retreat on the books for early June and are exploring other retreat opportunities including one in Indianapolis to support victims of domestic violence. It is no surprise our first grant came from The Friendship Fund, as the love and support of friends has been truly amazing! We, at RKI are so grateful for all the blessings that have come our way. Thank you, again, Friendship Fund!

What a summer for RKI! Hard to believe we have entered the month of October. Our summer season was packed with accomplishments and we have YOU, our loyal supporters, to thank for this. We are so excited to share some BIG fundraising news with you. RKI received $3,423.60 from our Whole Foods 5% Community Support Day. We just received our money and are so very grateful to Whole Foods Willowbrook for their support of our mission. THANK YOU to all of you who came out in support of our special day. We had a blast!

mySuburbanLife.com Article August 5, 2015 | By Evan Shields – eshields@shawmedia.com WESTMONT – Through water-based therapy a Westmont nonprofit is helping people who may be in the same boat with grief or addiction issues. Mary Anne Smrz, a Westmont resident, founded the Red Kayak Institute based on her own experiences. “About six or seven years ago, I had gone through a period of significant grief … and I found a lot of healing out on the water,” she said. She thought it would be great to share her experiences with others who might be going through a difficult time. Smrz talked with the Edward Hospital and Health Services Cancer Center in 2013 and was able to set up a retreat with cancer survivors. The Edward Cancer Center has money to help with this type of program, but that is not typically the case. “As I explored around, I realized a lot of people didn’t have budgets for this type of thing,” Smrz said. That’s when she decided to start Red Kayak Institute as a nonprofit in 2013. Red Kayak now takes groups out on the water for either a half-day or full-day experience at Saganashkee Slough in the Forest Preserve…

NC State University Philanthropy Journal Article August 3, 2015 | By Staff of Red Kayak Institute When a novice kayaker writes, “I was truly able to calm my thoughts and worries,” the staff of Red Kayak Institute fulfills its mission. Mary Anne Smrz established the Red Kayak Institute to help individuals facing life challenges. Six years ago, when caught in a cycle of grief, Mary Anne kayaked as much as her hectic lifestyle allowed. Paddling in silence helped her reclaim a sense of balance and serenity. Because of the healing she experienced on the water, Mary Anne realized others could reclaim themselves as well. She began to encourage others to push away from shore. Three years ago with the help of a professional kayak outfitter and support from social workers, she organized a retreat for cancer survivors. Because they were so impressed at that event, some women bought their own kayaks. Amazing feedback from others in the group encouraged Mary Anne to explore other possibilities. Since the first retreat, RKI held two more retreats for cancer patients also graced with the participation of caregivers. This year, RKI is facilitating a six-part retreat program for women who are actively participating in…

Chicago Tribune Article June 17, 2015 | By Community Contributor obtener33 This month the Red Kayak Institute held the third annual kayak retreat for Edward Cancer Center survivors and caregivers at Saganashkee Slough Forest Preserve. Social workers from Edward Cancer Center invited patients and caregivers who could benefit, and equipment from TheKayakers.com made the event possible. The goal was to help individuals facing life challenges ‘reclaim’ themselves. Several of patients had just reached the end of active cancer treatment. At first, the event functioned like a support group, and each person shared his or her reasons for coming. Participants were asked to find ‘answers’ in the boat and come back after paddling to share what they discovered. Then Mary Anne Smrz, founder of the Red Kayak Institute, invited them to lighten emotional burdens by tossing pebbles over the side of the kayak. In this way she made paddling into a metaphor for wellness. People pushed away from shore thinking about what they hoped to gain. First timers took to the water as if they had been paddling a long time. After two hours on the water, they were reluctant to come back in. One participant described the experience this way,…

Chicago Tribune Article May 8, 2015 | By Community Contributor obtener33 Saturday, April 25th, Red Kayak Institute participated in Giving DuPage’s 4th Annual DuPage Human Race. The Human Race® is a community event and fundraiser that benefits over 50 non-profit organizations serving DuPage County. Weather on race day provided RKI participants with a challenge, but conditions worked in their favor as their participants “paddled” through the cold and rain to a rewarding finish line. Red Kayak Institute provides programs geared toward women facing challenges or “transitions” – physical or emotional – who benefit from time on the water and the healing benefits of nature. These life transitions may include illness, losing a loved one, or facing an addiction. RKI reports raising $2,000 from the Human Race event. Participants created interest about their cause with Mary Anne’s little red kayak and paddles in hand during the race. Thank you to RKI friends who participated in the DuPage Human Race or made a donation to the effort, especially the runners/walkers who heard the storm that Saturday morning and still came out race. Their extra effort was inspiring. Special thanks as well to Great Lakes Apparel http://www.greatlakesapparel.com/ for their generous donation of our…

Greetings this holiday season to you! It has been months since Reflections has come to you, and I’ve missed you! I apologize for my absence from the written word, but it has been a fabulous year of paddling, transitioning to our new status as a 501(c)3 organization and living our mission at the Red Kayak Institute – “Encouraging women to receive the healing benefits of kayaking. Just add water.” And add water we did with four revitalizing retreats for women (and a few men) in transition. In June we launched our season with our 2nd Annual Edward Cancer Center paddle. This retreat grew from 10 women in 2013 to 20 this year, including two men who are primary caregivers for these survivors. We paddled the DuPage River, and all the participants were challenged to a new level. In the press release about the retreat, Georgiann Baldino wrote, “The success of these events showed the healing benefits of nature. A few hours on the water reopened a door to health.” Social Worker, Sharon Kelleher indicated, “We were all there for a beautiful day on the river, but Mary Anne’s special touches challenged us to engage in contemplation and promised release and…

Chicago Tribune Article September 19, 2014 | By Community Contributor obtener33 On September 7, 2014, Mary Anne Smrz, Founder of the Red Kayak Institute, facilitated a retreat at Saganashkee Slough in southwest Cook County. In two different sessions that day, Red Kayak staff raised $3350 for the Jan Malloy Scholarship Fund at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. The first kayak retreat began at 7 a.m., and the second group gathered at 11:30 a.m. Before participants launched, Brian Lewis from TheKayakers.com, gave kayaking and safety instruction. Smrz then facilitated programs that helped paddlers reconnect with nature as a way to reclaim themselves. When kayakers launched onto the Slough in the Palos Preserves of southwest Cook County, they experienced the physical, mental and spiritual healing powers of nature during a two-hour silent paddle. Group discussion circles, ending each session, opened new doors to health, creativity and wonder. The Jan Malloy Scholarship Fund for Spirit and Community Service was established to honor Jan Malloy, former Alumnae Coordinator at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. Jan was an integral part of the Mother McAuley family and was a truly spirited Mighty Mac. The scholarship continues the legacy of service Jan exemplified throughout her…