Serving Special Needs Families Through Family Retreat at Home

Dan and Sandra Rivera were super excited when they heard about Family Retreat taking place in New England. Their sons DeMetrius (19), Nathan (11) and Isaac (6) matched their parents’ excitement. Both DeMetrius and Nathan have global developmental delays, making their day-to-day caregiving routines incredibly complicated – and making vacations impossible. Little Isaac was perhaps anticipating Family Retreat most of all. As he explained, “I was looking forward to having my own assigned volunteer buddy!”

When their in-person Family Retreat was canceled due to COVID-19, the Rivera family was heartbroken. But coronavirus couldn’t stop Joni & Friends from encouraging special-needs families, and provisions were made for Family Retreat at Home. Dan and Sandra received a personal invitation from their New England staff letting them know they were wanted and valued. 

Sandra cried as she explained, “It was shocking to see Joni and Friends do something like this.” Because before being connected to Joni and Friends, Sandra’s experience was that “people don’t invest in us.” 

But Sandra and Dan were thrilled to learn that Joni and Friends loves serving families impacted by disability like the Riveras! “In 19 years, I’ve never seen anything like this!” said Sandra. “Joni and Friends took time to reach out to us. They saw us. They got to know us and made us feel special.”