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Red Kayak Institute and Edward Cancer Center Retreat (6-15)

Brian Lewis Helps Cancer Survivors Launch Kayaks. (Posted by obtener33, Community Contributor)

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, “Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful experience. The sponsors and everyone were so inviting and comfortable to be around. I loved my first experience as a “kayaker” and can’t wait to do it again. I understand why people love it. I felt the experience was very spiritual, empowering and invigorating. I believe that we all can benefit from such an event.”

Edward Cancer Center’s social workers offer a number of retreats and support groups, designed to help individuals deal with a cancer diagnosis. The success of the kayak event revealed the healing benefits of nature. A few hours on the water helped individuals reclaim a sense of control lost to disease. As a group they learned to, “step into the flow and then let go.” Brian Lewis of TheKayakers.com trained a diverse group of individuals, some novices, and properly fitted their equipment. During the training session and launch, he ensured kayakers had a safe experience. By the end of the kayak retreat, paddlers had tossed “problems” overboard. Paddling helped them find words to define the kind of life they want to live. They chose a beautiful, cool June morning to nurture body, mind and spirit. In the process they learned how to appreciate being on the water as a way to reclaim themselves.

For More Information about Kayaking Adventure Trips, Classes & Rentals visit The Kayakers.com. Red Kayak Institute was established by Mary Anne Smrz in early 2013 and officially incorporated as a charity in the State of Illinois in September 2013. Contact them at PO Box 98, Westmont, IL 60559; info@paddlinon.com; (844) 733-5295, http://www.paddlinon.com/red-kayak-institute/. Edward Cancer Center is part of Edward Hospital & Health Services, 801 S. Washington, Naperville, IL, 60540, (630) 527-3000, http://www.edward.org/cancer.