Eight cancer patients and their families will be treated to a beach Vacation in Orange Beach, Alabama, Aug. 18-24.

By John Mullen

August 12, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Orange Beach is a community known for coming together to help those in need especially organizations like Operation Reconnect, a program that brings in families of servicemen coming home from active duty overseas.

Operation Reconnect runs the retreats a couple of times per year and helps families from all the over the country with a relaxing time to reestablish those family bonds after tours of duty. In April, 37 families enjoyed a stay at the beach and organizers are hoping to bring in 100 more Sept. 21-28.

For the past six years, Orange Beach has also stepped up to help out eight breast cancer survivors and their families enjoy a week’s vacation at the beach through the Little Pink Houses of Hope group.

Community involvement is a key to the success of both of these groups’ efforts.

“They’ve been very gracious to us and helped make this happen,” Little Pink Houses’ Robi Jones said. “We’ve had a wonderful response from local volunteers which is huge because they kind of helps to have some extra hands and feet and things like that.”

Local contributions help her group be able to save more from fundraisers and expand the program to other areas. There are about 20 retreats each year in 10 states and ones in Costa Rica and St. John for couples only.

“We do have a budget each year from fundraising Little Pink does but anytime we can first of all not have to use our budget, that’s good,” Jones said. “That means we can keep adding those retreats in other locations.”

Ryan Charrier of Operation Reconnect says the city and the business community have always stepped up to help when the servicemen and families come to town.

“Most of the accommodations are donated,” Charrier said. “One of our biggest rental management partners is Meyer Vacation Rentals but we do work with everybody else. Meyer is our number one star.”

For Jones and Little Pink Houses, that star is Turquoise Place and Spectrum Resorts which manages units in Turquoise as well as the Beach Club on the Fort Morgan peninsula.  

“Most retreats count on like individual homeowners that have beach homes that donate their homes,” Jones said. “So that could be in several locations. We’re very fortunate Turquoise Place provides all the lodging for our families which is huge. About half of that is privately owned condos and the other half are the kind of hotel side of Turquoise Place through Spectrum Resorts.”

Having the families staying in the same place helps to build bonds between them, Jones said.

“It’s amazing to see what happens to the families during the week,” Jones said. “Initially the first night and the first day they are like ‘who are these people, what’s going on?’ By usually the next day you have all the kids grouping together over here and it’s just amazing to see how they just build a community of their own.”

Out of that community sometimes comes new volunteers to help with the program.

“We have volunteers that come also and they come from different places,” Jones said. “Many of our volunteers are survivors or they have been through a retreat with a family member.”

Lodging is just part of the package the visiting families receive. Several restaurants, attractions and city departments contribute to help the families have a good time.

“We provide all the lodging, the activities and the meals for the families,” Jones said. “The only thing they have to provide is their transportation to and from the retreats. We have eight families coming for a total of 43 family members.”

Besides Turquoise and Spectrum, Jones said contributions were received from restaurants Flora-Bama, Wolf Bay Lodge, GT’s By the Bay, LuLu’s, The Gulf, Southern Grind at Indigo, Publix and Beach Girl Coffee. Other contributors were Romar Baptist Church, the Island Church, Cold Mil Dolphin Cruises, Island Mardi Gras society, McCollough Institute and D.R. Horton. City departments helping out include the lifeguard group, the Pink Heals Firetruck Cindy, the Wind and Water Learning Center, the Hot Shop and the Backcountry Trail.

According to the website, “Retreats are open to breast cancer patients who are currently in treatment or have finished treatment with the past 12 months. Little Pink Houses of Hope was started by breast cancer survivor Jeanine Patten-Coble in 2009, just after receiving her diagnosis.”

For more information or to fill out an application, visit www.littlepink.org.