The third SOAR SPA (Something Positive Afterward) was held in Orlando April 22-26, 2009 and this year was combined with another exciting SOAR event, Operation Freefall, Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault®!
SOAR SPA brought together friends old and new, a small group of women from a handful of US states and territories, 4 members of Team SOAR – myself included – and three facilitators. Kellie Greene’s idea for SOAR SPA came from her mother, Odette, who was integral in her personal healing process. Kellie knew that her experience and journey would have been very different had it not been for the core values her mother had instilled in her since her childhood, and her constant, unwavering support. SOAR SPA retreats are designed to provide support, self-discovery, empowerment and build strong relationships in the aftermath of sexual assault. Healing from sexual abuse and assault is not something that anyone should have to go through alone.
This SPA was also the first one in which outside supporters were not invited to attend. Instead, in this intimate group, we found the companionship and unconditional love in one another. Over the 5 days of the retreat, we laughed and cried, broke down walls that we had built around ourselves, healed, explored and discovered ourselves, and built and deepened amazing friendships. It may seem incredible and almost unbelievable that this could all happen over the course of only 5 days, but it is something I have seen and experienced personally in all of the SOAR events I have attended. As I re-read the introduction letter we all received on the first night of SPA, stating Kellie’s mission, it brought tears to my eyes, for her, for myself and for all the amazing women she has touched along the way. Kellie has succeeded in creating what she set out to, and has changed lives and inspired so many over the years.
After two intense days of self-exploration, Saturday morning we all packed up for the day and headed out to SkyDive City in Zephryhills, where most would take the Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault. SkyDive City is a fantastic host, and drop-zone owner TK and his staff are always incredibly welcoming and supportive. At SkyDive City, the group met up with the rest of the freefallers, some of whom were new to Operation Freefall and to skydiving, and got to see many of our yearly participants and supporters. There was nervous excitement as we prepared to jump, some, like myself, were freefall veterans and others were preparing for their very first fall! As each group headed out to the “Freefall Express”, the plane that would take us 13,500 feet in the air, but not bring us back to earth, cheers and applause resounded.
The acclaim turned celebratory as the chutes became visible and our friends floated back to earth. The day ended with a meal at the drop-zone at sunset and later, a drum circle by campfire, under the starry night sky. Drummer, Steve Turner of Giving Tree Music led the circle and taught everyone about community and joy with his dynamic presence, presentation and motto, “drumming is easy!” We danced, drummed and chanted, delighting in the power and energy that we had created together, and continued to build. What a magical end to a wonderful day!
This SOAR SPA included many interactive activities, group projects, individual exercises and quiet reflection time. In addition to talk therapies, we participated in art therapies, a Reiki workshop, Improvisation, meditation and the opportunity to address issues and struggles as they presented themselves. Allowing for concerns to be brought to the light as needed afforded us all extra opportunities for growth and healing as we and the facilitators went with the flow, as we need to do in most aspects of our lives. There was also close attention paid to the fact that after creating and flourishing in the safe environment we had created together, we needed to prepare ourselves to go back out into the world, and take the tools and lessons we had acquired with us, while recognizing that such trust and openness would not exist in all other areas of our lives.
Sunday brought the closing of the SPA retreat and many tearful but hopeful goodbyes. We all had become such a close-knit group over the experiences that made up the SPA, some planned and many more unplanned. Exchanging contact information and promising to keep in touch, the charismatic and brave group headed our separate ways, each of us holding our heads much higher than when we walked in, only 5 days before, and radiating a new and infinitely positive energy and wisdom.
It was indeed, an honor, a joy and a privelage to be a part of this, my second, SOAR SPA.
Blue Skies, and Love and Light…