I believe that two of the most important gifts a family who lives under the persistent, horrific reality of the physical or emotional decline and ultimate death of a mother or father are an opportunity in the present to live, for a short while, without the constant worry and stress of the illness and the opportunity to create a tangible legacy to fortify those who will mourn the passing in the future. Inheritance of Hope (IoH), founded by Deric Milligan and his late wife Kristen, have been offering these gifts via the Legacy Retreat, an all expenses paid, four day holiday, to families like mine since 2007. My family was served in August 2019 at a the 38th IoH Legacy Retreat which took place in Orlando, FL.
I discovered IoH while scrolling through my Facebook feed, interested in finding a fall marathon that might fit my schedule. Team IoH provides charity runners the opportunity to participate in some truly bucket list races, including Big Sur, Chicago, NYC and the Marine Corps Marathon. While researching IoH as a nonprofit, I thought the Legacy Retreat could be perfect for my family and sold the idea to my wife, who has become even more of an introvert than me since her illness. The application was very straightforward and required only two additional items, a letter from her doctor confirming diagnosis and brief letters from her to our children and me. Honestly, she probably put the minimal effort required into the letters, but within a couple weeks after uploading the application, I received a call from an IoH family coordinator, Heidi, to congratulate us for being selected. We were offered a choice of which upcoming Legacy Retreat to attend. After choosing Orlando, Heidi and I communicated via email, phone and text to cement travel and lodging arrangements. Heidi’s primary concern was to ensure that my family’s needs and special medical requirements would be met. We chose to travel with a collapsible wheelchair, but once in Orlando exclusively used the ones IoH provided for each family. It was all very convenient.
IoH is run by a staff of some of the most amazing, positive, supportive people I have ever come across: Betsy, Jill, Mikki, Audra, Eric, Gina, Aaron and others I will not offend by misspelling their names. Deric, cofounder and CEO, has assembled a truly great team. If Deric is the brain and the staff the heart of IoH, the Volunteers, an especially organized and selfless group of individuals personally assigned to each family, sometimes in pairs or more depending on the size of the family, are the body without which the Legacy Retreat could not happen. These individuals pay out of pocket to spend four days babysitting snot nosed brats, pushing wheelchairs through amusement parks, playing personal assistant to sometimes crabby patients, listening to caregivers venting and many other generally considered unpleasant tasks. Like a lodestone, IoH attracts volunteers as special as their staff.
The retreat was scheduled from Friday through Monday, though we decided to add an extra day before and after. The extra day prior allowed us to arrive in Orlando and prepare for our first experience participating in a “cancer thing with a bunch of sick folk”. We were somewhat anxious and admittedly ignorant. Postponing your departure at least one day following the retreat is highly recommended if you can afford the time to take full advantage of Monday. More on that later...
So we arrived on Thursday, and though the start of the Retreat was the next day, Heidi came and met my family at dinner to say hello and verify there were no issues with travel or getting set up at the hotel. We stayed at the Renaissance Orlando at Seaworld during the entire trip. Choosing to stay two nights additional to the Retreat, did require us to assume the cost of those two nights, however, Heidi was able to get us their rate for those nights. IoH’s rate includes a pretty phenomenal buffet breakfast which usually costs around $34 per person. This is not your typical complimentary hotel breakfast. Definitely try the omelet made by retired Navy Chief Mess Specialist and make your own freshly squeezed carrot, celery, tomato or orange juice medley.
Friday is when most families arrive, and that was when our volunteers met us. Over these four days, Brian, father of three, and Marina, a child counselor, became family, but without the drama. My kids still miss them. My daughter submitted a photo of our family with them for her fourth grade classroom bulletin board. Brian and I text back and forth and there is still an outstanding challenge to run a race for IoH together next year.
Friday culminates in a dinner at the hotel for everyone serving or being served that includes plenty of fun. If you decide to retire early and your children still have energy to burn, your volunteers will gladly stay and deliver them to your room at a time of your choosing.
Saturday morning began with breakfast before attending your Legacy group. Adults are separated from children and children divided into age groups for roughly two hours. The counselors leading the children’s groups are very careful not to share anything parents may not wish them to regarding terminal illness, but rather focus on compartmentalizations and introducing methods to deal with stress and emotions. We were skeptical about the adult group at first, but it turns out most couples were, so before long we were all telling our stories as patients or caregivers, sharing as much or as little as we chose. There was never any pressure to speak. Thanks Jill.
At 11:00, we came together with our children and volunteers and made our way across the street to Seaworld. The time was ours until 4:00 when there was a photo planned for all participants outside Shamu stadium. Mikki, photographer extraordinaire, did a fantastic job getting us all together and getting a great shot.
After the photo, the volunteers stayed in the park with the children while the parents prepared for a dinner date night. We ate at the Bonefish Grill, where a special menu was provided. A long table was set up for the couples and we ended up sitting across from a wonderful couple from Colorado. Our prayers are with you Justin and Katie.
After dinner, time was set aside specifically to create each family’s Legacy Video. This event is the capstone of the retreat. There is no specific format or required content. It can be done by both parents or just the patient. One of the staff can act as a facilitator or you can have the room to yourself. The staff can provide ideas if you are unsure what types of things you may want to say. I would bet you could even exceed the 30 minute time limit if you needed. This is a very personal thing, and highly respected by the staff. In fact, IoH is is so all in on the value of this opportunity that they will keep a room set up for you if you are unable to make a video on Saturday. Thanks, Betsy.
Sunday morning was very similar to the day before, but this time the adult group sessions were split such that caregivers and patients were separate. This was one of the most profound parts of the retreat for me, to hear how other caregivers were or were not coping and share some of the things I’ve learned and learn from others.
After group sessions, we boarded a coach to Universal. Unfortunately, my wife was not feeling well and rested in the room for the day. She was not forgotten, however, and the IoH staff ensured that she had everything she needed, including lunch and a ride to join up with us at Universal if she started feeling better. Yes, I went with Brian, Marina and my children and tried to wash away the guilt with copious amounts of frozen butter beer and roller coasters. Two important things about Universal: your ticket is a two day ticket for both Universal and Islands of Adventure, so stay the extra day if you can, and IoH has made an arrangement with the park that will forever change your perspective in a great way.
What began a nightly routine on Friday in the vast hotel pool, rounds and rounds of Sharks & Minnows, with a small number of players, encompassed more than half the pool and close to 50 adults and children by Sunday night. I think we finally played our last round at around 10:30 that night. Jennie, Seaweed, you both did swimmingly.
After breakfast Monday, you will all go to the closing ceremony. After a short time, the children will leave the room. There will be tears. It was not a bad thing.
Once the closing ceremony is complete and you are reunited with your children, the Retreat is over and it is time to say goodbye. More tears. Again, not a bad thing. If you are leaving that day, your travel arrangements will have already been made. If you are staying, IoH provided a bus to Universal to spend another day enjoying the park. They also ensure the bus will be available for a return trip to the hotel at around 5:30. Stay the extra day, the arrangement with the park will still be in effect and it’s so worth it. My wife was able to make it to Universal on Monday.
Listen, I honestly thought that I was going to just carry on watching my wife die, getting my kids to counseling and sucking it all up everyday without ever taking advantage of any the “cancer perks” out there. It was too much effort while taking care of my family. Plus, I’m smart, I know what I need to do. I’m not really into talking with anyone. Remember when I mentioned I was ignorant?
If you are a parent who is a patient suffering with a terminal illness or a caregiver, go to https://inheritanceofhope.org/retreats.html and apply for a retreat.
The vision of Deric and Kristen, made reality by the phenomenal staff and volunteers at Inheritance of Hope, to allow my family a much needed timeout from cancer and the opportunity to create a Legacy Video, the true value of which is beyond words. Thank you Inheritance of Hope for everything.
This organization is amazing! It gave us hope that we never realized we needed. When a family is faced with a serious illness, that news can reek havoc on a family. Inheritance of Hope is filled with dedicated individuals who are gifted in helping your family see past the pain to view the light! Forever grateful, the Law family - Orlando Retreat 2019.
This orginaztion has allowed me to make everlasting memories with my loved ones while battling a terminal illness. They sent us on an all expense paid retreat while pampering us helping us not to focus on the disease but on family.
I have served at Inheritance of Hope's Legacy Retreats for years, and the North Carolina retreat was awesome! It's so fun to see the IoH Family growing and making memories at new places like the Biltmore mansion and a trampoline park!
I thought it would be weird to tell a stranger how I felt and what my fears and dreams were. I thought it would feel weird to tell them my deepest darkest fears. But the words just fell out of my mouth. I laid a lot of things out there. To my surprise, I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t alone in the fear of speaking them and I wasn’t alone in the fear of how they’d be received. In the end, these people I thought I’d never see again brought me a new feeling of hope. A new feeling of peace. A new feeling of companionship. I didn’t feel alone at all. I felt warm and loved. When you are forced to think about your death, you really gain a sense of compassion for others and respect for their wishes. What you don’t think about is being happy in these moments. I learned a lot from each of them and what that happiness might look like. I saw so many smiles and so many tears all in the same moments. I watched a young mom cry her first day because she had to leave her son for a bit. She was fearful. By the end, I saw that disappear. I saw a woman with teenagers who were thriving even though she thought they may not be. I saw children talk to adults about “getting better”. I saw comfort from complete strangers. I saw so much pure genuine kindness and love. It truly was a sight to see! I never knew that coming on this trip would bring me a whole new set of family. I never thought I’d see my family discuss anything with anyone because they’ve all been hoping for the best. And while that’s great, you have to get it out. It was great to see them do that. Having cancer is not all doom and gloom people. It’s just a phase of my life I have to go through. I don’t stop living. I don’t stop loving. I don’t stop doing. I don’t stop fighting. What I do is be intentional with my time and energy. As long as I remember that, I’ll be okay. What IOH gave me is comfort in knowing that even if my time gets cut short, there are still things I can do to be here. And in the meantime, LIVE baby, LIVE!
Our family was fortunate enough to attend the NC Asheville retreat and it was a memorable event for our whole family. The volunteers & staff were friendly, helpful & welcoming people. This trip beyond exceeded our expectations and helped us create lifelong memories together.
For me it all started with the layovers from the airport, I’m going through treatment and my energy levels are very low and my feet are in intense pain so the extra walking and changing planes was to me very stressful. I feel like a flight from Boston to South Carolina should not include a layover in New York. Nor a flight from South Carolina to Boston all the same. I know it sounds like I’m complaining but when I read the letters from other families that were served one of the things said quite often was the fact that this foundation Spared no expense and not one detail was missed. But I’m sorry for me it just continued to get a little worse. We are a family of five and when we finally arrived at the hotel we were surprised to walk into a room with just two full size beds. Now I understand that most hotels have Cots you can use for a small fee or just asking for one. So we asked our Volunteer to ask the front desk if we could use one and when he returned with an air mattress and fabrication that this particular hotel does not offer cots because it’s a fire hazard. I accepted his reasoning and we tried to sleep through what ended up being a very tough night. For the most part I’m a strong believer in first impressions and this was not a good one in my opinion. I later found out that other families asked the front desk and received cots with no issues. The next day started off very early considering the day before. The kids enjoyed playing and the arts and crafts that they did in fact my kids had lots of fun throughout the entire trip which is one of the reasons we gave the three stars.
Could not ask for a more amazing group of staff and volunteers. IoH is the real deal! An incredible group that provides once-in-a-lifetime trips to families who are dealing with the terminal illness of a parent. The friendships we formed, the tools we gained, and the memories we made will last a lifetime.
Our family was served by Inheritance Of Hope in April 2019. This is a top-notch organization. Their volunteers were incredible and I am missing them dearly. IOH provided our family with community, legacy tools, and precious memories. We are so appreciative for IOH. We plan to volunteer for them in the future and spread the hope.
I wanted to thank all inheritance of hope family , for all kindness and all the good memories that they made me and my family! And as if they were emptying some burdens of my shoulders.
Thank you Deric again for all your support.
Marjan, David, Evan
Recently IOH took our family with them to Orlando for an all inclusive trip to universal studios and sea world. There were about 35 families who are dealing with terminal cancer. Each of these families have children who are under the age of 18. The weekend was about coming together and discussing how to prepare for the loss of your loved one. Adults were in small group sessions and the children were in a large group. Even though it is a hard topic to talk about, there were professional counselors and volunteers who knew how to moderate the discussions to be beneficial and less awkward. There were professional photographers who took many wonderful pictures. There was even a video session where we were able to film a message for our son, which was a great experience.
We were cared for and the foundation was always very compassionate.
We definitely are very grateful to have been served by this wonderful foundation.
Nina and Mark Lukenich
What an experience!!! Honestly, hands down, the BEST experience of my life (and I've had some pretty great times!). I don't even know if I can put into words how amazing it was, but I will try.
IOH is an organization that provides all expenses paid "vacations" to families with children facing the loss of a parent. Ours was in Orlando and we went to Universal, Islands of Adventure, and Sea World. Each child & family has a volunteer that is with them, I cannot explain how wonderful that is. Our volunteer Meredith was amazing. She connected with our family immediately! She happily took care of everything for us from being with our daughter to carrying our bags to arranging early busses when I was completely wiped out to capturing precious family memories for us so we could stay "in the moment". Basically all we had to do was just be and enjoy ourselves. God knows we needed that!
"Vacation" does not begin to describe our experience. Everyone at IOH is now family and I honestly feel that in my heart. We spent each morning in our couples group while Lex & Meredith were in their kid group. We shared "our story" with our group and we all connected immediately as we quickly realized we were not alone in our struggles & fears. I still can't believe this but my husband participated just as much as I did!!! We shared laughs and hugs and tears and fears that some of us haven't said aloud let alone to anyone. While I am still in the same situation as I was before in that I have a terminal illness, I feel so much more at peace than I was before. IOH gave us so incredibly much more than a "vacation". They gave us connections to others and we can help each other through this in a way that others just can't do. They gave us tools and ideas for things we can do now to keep us connected to our families long after we're gone. I had the opportunity to make a professional grade Legacy video for my kids that I know will help them heal should something happen to me. And that is just the beginning of what I'll be able to leave for them to help them whenever they need to feel their mommy's love. For that alone I am eternally grateful.
This was the best experience of my life! My family and I are so very grateful to the Inheritance of Hope organization for this amazing opportunity. We were able to connect with other families going through similar trials. The counselors and volunteers helped tremendously. This was definitely a life-changing experience that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. We made memories and learned how to leave a legacy. I hope my family will be able to serve other families during future retreats and pay it forward.
This was one of the best week's of our family life! We will be forever grateful for the memories created here. We had extraordinary support from the moment our application was accepted until the moment we got home from the trip! They just loved on us and made our family a part of the IoH family! They filled our hearts with joy, inspiration, and love! My three children will forever have the keepsakes of this retreat and know that no matter what happens with their dad's health, they are loved by so many people and are a part of a legacy bigger than themselves! I would recommend this trip to any family going through the journey of having a parent with a terminal illness. Each member of the family is lovingly spoiled and cared for!
Inheritance of Hope at Orlando was the most amazing experience that gave me the opportunity to meet and share my story with other people that are going through the same situation. All the staff treated us with kindness, patience, and generosity. Their commitment is truly heart-warming. It’s great to know that people other than you care about the times you’re going through and share the same pain. We’re so grateful to be included in the big family of IoH!
My family and I had the privilege to attend an Inheritance of Hope retreat this past February. It was an absolutely Amazing experience!!!
We could hardly believe that this retreat was going to be everything they claimed it would be. We were excited and nervous waiting to go on the trip, unsure of how it would go. A little concerned I wouldn't be able to manage so much activity.
There was no reason for concern or reservations. It was So Much More than we could've dreamed it would be!
From the moment we met our volunteers we were so well taken care of. They were so sweet and really made us feel at ease.
I was worried my 3 year old would have separation anxiety and get upset about being with a stranger. But as soon as he met Tony, one of our volunteers, he was instantly attached and happy to go along with him. Even started calling him pawpaw (grandpa).
Tony and Kara went above and beyond any expectation we had.
I needed to use a wheelchair through most of the parks. They pushed me without complaint or even letting on how tired they Must have been.
They were fun, kind, and so patient with our family.
The retreat made dreams come true. We got experiences and memories as a family, that we never thought we'd get a chance to do. An incredible blessing! We'll forever be thankful.
When they say welcome to the IOH family, its not just a phrase that’s thrown out. They truly mean what they say.
We did gain family. The hardest part was saying goodbye to these people we just met, but fell completely in love with.
I want to give special thanks to Tony, Kara, Anette, Betsy, Sheena, and Tom. They all played a part of making this trip extra special. All took a piece of our hearts.
A huge Thank You to Kendra Scott for your support by partnering with IOH. You are so sweet and down to Earth. Love your hugs! And that extra touch of care from you and your team.
The biggest Thank You to Derrick Milligan and everyone at IOH for the amazing, inspiring work you do to support families like mine. Thank you doesn't even seem like enough. Through all of you, prayers were answered, dreams came true, and priceless memories were made. And we're just 1 family served.
I would urge any family who qualifies to apply, and take advantage of this opportunity. You won't regret it!
And anyone who is able to give, and looking for the right organization to support, This Is It!!
This organization is amazing. We felt so cared for during our retreat. It was more then we could have ever expected. The kindness and generosity that was shown to us by the organizers and the volunteers was beyond amazing. Our Legacy Retreat with IOH was life changing.
Everything in the universe came together perfectly for me to find Inheritance of Hope, be able to attend the retreat, meet some of the best people ever, and now continue those friendships. This amazing program allowed me and my children to make some awesome memories that we would have never been able to otherwise. It meant so much to me to be able to interact with others that knew exactly what I’m going through and my kiddos were able to learn some coping skills and have a lot of fun doing so. We were cared for and made to feel special and it was a breath of fresh air to have four marvelous days of not having to worry about anything!! Inheritance of Hope has inspired me to want to do more and help others be able to experience this same joy! Thank you a million times IoH!!!!
I couldn’t say enough amazing things about this wonderful organization! Inheritance of Hope has one mission: to help children with a parent undergoing terminal illness. This is done beautifully. They are remarkable in that their volunteers are the most kind, caring, patient, genuine, giving people I have ever met. The wonderfully planned, intentional activities helped all of us. The day to day love and support and were pure examples of unconditional love. My family had never experienced such selflessness and love while we were served on our retreat in Orlando. It allowed my family to rebuild itself, gain tools, and aid in the process of living with MBC all the while supporting me and building my legacy. I am more at peace now. My husband, our son and myself made life long friendships with other families. We laughed harder than we ever have before and our lives have changed drastically for the better, thanks to our retreat with IOH! Everlasting memories were made that my son (and family) can hold onto forever! Thank you so very much, IOH for giving us the experience of a lifetime! We love all of you!