An upcoming event is offering caregivers a chance to reset, virtually.
‘Maybe Cara will do it.’ That was the rumor on the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska, four years ago when an organization that ran a popular respite retreat for military-connected caregivers was canceled. Maybe Cara Loken, founder of heARTS for Healing, would step in and run the event now known as the Refuel You! Retreat?
Loken, who is a current Yellow Ribbon Support Specialist and 2016 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Military Spouse of the Year, said yes. In its fifth year, the Refuel You! Retreat is for caregivers of military members and veterans. It focuses on health and wellness, and will include special surprises.
“These caregivers, they just need that break and to meet other people going through the same thing,” Loken, a mother of two, said. “We can teach them how to refill their cups so that they can take care of that veteran or military member.”
Like almost every current human interaction, Refuel You! has gone virtual. Instead of just drawing caregivers from the midwestern area, anyone from around the globe can join. This year’s retreat is being held April 23 – 24. Tickets are being capped at 40 attendees “for better interaction and discussions,” Loken says, and can be purchased for $35 via EventBrite.
The fee, says Loken, will go toward a goody box that will be used during the retreat: art supplies, a retreat workbook, and spa items.
“We are not making any money on this,” Loken said. “And we’ll be doing lots of giveaways throughout the retreat.”
Tailored to both genders and military caretakers of any age, Refuel You! will feature approximately 10-15 speakers who will teach on topics like self-care, art therapy, social connections, yoga, and more. Retreat attendees will not just be staring at a screen for 24 hours, however.
“Nothing about this retreat will be death by PowerPoint,” Loken said. “We want this to be interactive, and so we’re going to be doing stuff the whole time.”
“Doing stuff the whole time” could be used to describe Loken, a serial volunteer who is married to Lt. Col. John Loken of the 155th Air Refueling Wing. She won her Military Spouse of the Year for a wide range of volunteer work, mostly centered around military members and their families. She expanded those efforts after launching heARTS for Healing, an art-focused therapy program for the military community.
Art has long been a natural outlet for Loken, a painter, and her husband, a blacksmith. So, teaching others — especially military people — how to harness the power of art is her passion.
“Caregivers are so used to taking care of everyone else that they forget how to care for themselves,” Loken said. “It takes a toll and breaks you down physically and mentally.”
That’s what Loken and her three- to four-person team for the Refuel You! Retreat is hoping to reverse.
“I hope it gives the caregivers the respite they need,” she said. “I want them to keep coming back because it helped.”