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16th Wellness Retreat Revisited

Posted Monday October 12, 2015 by Damien Aviles

Anti Climatic!

That’s what Jac and I always say after a Wellness Retreat – we work hard prior to one with hopes that everything will fall into place (always does!) and I ,for one, have nervous energy right up to the morning of the weekend (YES – I drive Jacqui crazy leading up to one!). This retreat happen to fall on the same day as a Strength for Life fundraiser that a very good friend was running. I was a bit torn, I wanted to be at the Met/Yankee game with my family and friends supporting SFL and helping Brian Nealis anyway I possibly could but needed (and WANTED) to be at our 16th Wellness Retreat doing what I love to do:)

The fundraiser was a huge success (no surprise with Brian in charge!), it raised over $3000 for SFL! Everyone I spoke to said the it was AWESOME, from the bus to the tailgating, right down to the seats! Great time had by all! Note to self……NO retreat on August 1, 2016 – the next scheduled Met/Yankee fundraiser (SAVE THE DATE and join the fun!)!! THANK YOU BRIAN!

Well, even with all the rave reviews, I would not have traded my spot that day for anything. Jacqui, Teresa and I had the absolute pleasure of meeting 20 of the most amazing, beautiful women. They all brought with them a story that each so openly shared, letting us take a glimpse of their inspiring journey and inspiring us while doing so.

Our day started with Dr. Mike Gruttadauria of NY Health Solutions (check him out www.nyhealthsolutions). This was Dr. Mike’s first speaking engagement for Strength for Life and boy did he NAIL it! Dr. Mike’s talk was eye opening for all of us and was presented with such simplicity that even a crash course on methylation was easily understood! He offered a different take on healthcare and healing (which is right on!) and invaluable information for our guests to absorb. It is obvious that he is as passionate as we are and clearly he is on an important path. We are so grateful for his time, hopefully he will stick to us like marshmallows on potatoes (ahhh, you have to come to his lecture to get that one!). Looking forward to future seminars with Dr. Mike!

Next everyone got moving to ZUMBA with the one and only Penni Niles. It was so good having her back and our guests certainly had a great time moving, grooving and feeling! Penni is beautiful inside and out – she has given so much of herself to SFL not only at our retreats but at our fundraisers too. Thank you Penni!! If you are in the area look her up at one of her classes, she also teaches yoga! Connect with her on FB- Penni Niles.

Now it was time to settle in a bit, onto yoga with the young yet very wise Laura Binder. Laura knows how to get every level feeling like they are seasoned yogis! Not only do our guest experience healing through bodywork but her gentle guidance also taps into their emotional and spiritual side. She is getting married in a few weeks (on Halloween!) and made time for us-she is the best! Thank you Laura – you can find her on FB as well, Laura Binder.

Finally – LUNCH! Bonding and more sharing, absolutely wonderful! Right after lunch we did Art Therapy lead by an amazing survivor, Donna Charielle. We meet Donna many years ago, she gives back so much of her talent and time to many cancer organizations and we are so blessed to have her! Donna’s background as a CSW was cornerstone to our mask making class. The masks designed where both beautiful and meaningful. We had a few “ah hah” moments when Donna walked us though discovering what our designs may mean at a deeper level for us – good stuff! Donna also gave Jacqui and I the BEST GIFT EVER– the masks she made (see photo!) us had true meaning….the heart on the cheek – represents all the things we do with pure love, the ribbons on the other side – represents all the people we have helped, the jester eye paint – represents the humor that Jac and I do all things with! LOVE IT! Thank you Donna!

Now it was time to get everyone up and moving with our exercise class! Oh how we love to work together (heehee) doing what we love to do!! We hope that everyone realized how simple it is to do some intentional movement using the exercise bands! Stay committed and you WILL see results! Better yet come to one of our classes! Room for everyone! Look us up at for all class locations and times.

After getting everyone up and moving, time to settle down with some reiki and sound healing. I honestly cannot even describe the energy in the room, powerful to say the least. Close to 20 practitioners came to volunteer their time and offer healing in the form of reiki – AMAZING! We are also so grateful to Rosemary Maginniss ( for organizing such an incredible group and Donna Nesteruk for the beautiful sound healing provided! Our guests always come out of this part of our retreat looking extremely relaxed and renewed. Thank you all for coming to take part, we are so very grateful!
We couldn’t believe it, but dinner time was here-great food and great connections being made.
After eating, Dr. Siobhan Hanlon (contact her at, was up:) Dr. Siobhan is a Naturopathic Doctor, what is that you ask? A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, as well as all the practical skills such as learning the codes that enable a physician to bill patients correctly, for example, learn more about 99215 and the treatment this refers to. She also studied holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician, unfortunately NY does not recognize ND’s as licensed doctors, hopefully in the near future they will. Her presentation paralleled Dr. Mikes so it was a great reinforcement to all that was learned earlier. The best part is that she PREFERS Q & A vs. straight lecturing and our guests certainly picked her bright brain! It was a great way to complete the night and we are so blessed to have Dr. Siobhan as an active integral part of SFL! Thank you Dr. Siobhan!!
After a good night’s rest, Jacqui met the group for breakfast and a nature walk. Sounds very zen, but ended up being a 3 mile trek through hilly terrain! These gals were troopers to say the least!
We truly hope that everyone learned at least one new thing during the weekend, it is our mission to open eyes, hearts and minds so we may empower, strengthen and inspire you on your journey….after all that is what you do for us!
Many blessings xoxoxo
Deb & Jac

From Jacqui…

I need to share this story and I hope I can give it the justice it deserves. One of the new survivors that attended the last retreat joined my class tonight, and after class she told me that during the retreat she experienced something that she had never felt before. She went on to say that at the Reiki session she was quite calm and in a state, when the practitioners hands were close to her head and shoulders she was not aware but as soon as the hands were held by her hips she felt an enormous flow of heat. This woman has ovarian cancer which the Reiki practitioner did not know but focused her hands and healing there. She went on to say that she told her husband about this sense of calm she experienced since that day. She slept better for the next few nights.

She explained that she is ‘in a holding’ pattern with her disease – the doctors tell her she has to wait and see, and that is both frustrating and discouraging. She said they bring you to the end of the cliff and you can either jump or fly —– the session of Reiki gave her the wings to fly. She has been given a sense of peace and is so grateful for the gift from our Reiki practitioner.

I had chills, I hope that you get a sense of what she shared with me. If she does write this – I will share her own story…but until then – thank you Rosemary Maginniss and all the beautiful Reiki and Sound Healing practitioners.

God Bless YOU!

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