ORLAND, Maine — Robin Bray, 57, of Orland has a dream that took shape when she attended Camp Make a Dream in Missoula, Mont., a retreat for survivors of ovarian cancer.
“Why,” she asked herself, “can’t we have a camp like that right here in Maine?”
Answers to that question began to take shape when she attended a veterans retreat with her husband Tom at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, an organization that offers camping experiences to boys and girls, leadership camps, and retreats for veterans and those directly affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Bray pitched the idea to Camp Kieve owner Henry Kennedy who told her to go ahead and plan the retreat and that he would work with her to make it happen. The cause, he told Bray, was dear to his heart because his grandmother died of ovarian cancer.
“My family has been doing camps for almost 90 years. Part of our mission is to teach kids to give back, to serve as leadership models. We had some capacity to give for the ovarian cancer retreat, and it felt like the right thing to do. Some of our board members have helped defray the cost,” camp owner Henry Kennedy said.
Bray is a four-year survivor, most of that time spent getting chemotherapy treatment.
“I am very fortunate I have so many interests,” she said. “I sew, weave, kayak, walk, knit and write. I do yoga at the Beth Wright Center [in Ellsworth]. At Dana Farber [Cancer Institute in Boston], I learned to make jewelry. Anything tactile and colorful really feeds you. It lets people open up about having cancer. It’s very magical. Every cancer care center should have a component for colorful, tactile creativity.”
Then, Bray met Anne Tonachel, program manager of the Boston nonprofit organization Hospitality Homes that provides free lodging to those with cancer who must travel to Boston for treatment. Tonachel also is an ovarian cancer survivor.
Each week, when Bray went to Boston for treatment, she and her husband stayed at Tonachel’s house through the Hospitality Homes program.
Bray and Tonachel became friends and now they are collaborating to organize the Turning the Tide retreat at Camp Kieve Oct. 15-18. Camp Kieve will donate space for the retreat and Bray and Tonachel are working to raise funds through grants for the retreat. The retreat will be sponsored by the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center.
“We look forward to pulling together a stronger network of ovarian cancer survivors in Maine and to help women become stronger advocates for ovarian cancer health care,” Bray said. “But I want everyone to have fun, too. I want to bring to the retreat what I felt in Montana — an incredible empowerment over my illness. I want other women to feel that.”
Turning the Tide retreat is open to women who are undergoing or have completed treatment for ovarian cancer. Priority will be given to women residing in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The retreat can house 25-30. Bray anticipates that 12 to 15 survivors will come from the Boston area.
Those who wish to attend the retreat must complete an application and mail it to: Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center, P.O. Box 322, Ellsworth 04605.
The retreat will combine recreation and relaxation with indoor and outdoor activities including kayaking, canoeing, hiking, pottery, jewelry making, yoga, sewing, cooking classes, car making, collage art and singing. An experienced counselor will be available for private and group discussion.
There is no cost to attend the retreat, but donations are appreciated by sending a check to the above address.
“One of my dreams is to forge a stronger link with CancerCare of Maine. It would be wonderful if ovarian cancer survivors from throughout Maine could get together three or four times a year to talk, have lunch and do something fun,” Bray said.
For information about Camp Kieve, go to kieve.org.
An early version of this story requires correction. Robin Bray, not Gray, is from Orland, not Orrington.