Needed: Retreat houses for survivors

Needed: Retreat houses for survivors - A group of people posing for a photo - Social group

Little Pink Houses of Hope planning fourth annual retreat

For some families in the Little Pink Houses of Hope program, this may be the last time they will all be together as a family; for some, their last vacation together at all. Little Pink Houses of Hope brings together breast cancer survivors and patients who have doctor’s clearance to come for a weeklong vacation to Key West. Last year, eight homes were donated for a June 19 retreat to the Southernmost City.

“We are looking for anything — conch shack, condo, or house,” said Key West coordinator Amy Gage, who has three houses lined up and needs at least three more to make the program happen this summer. Gage has nine families lined up, if six more houses come available.

The program gives the woman fighting breast cancer and her family a no-worries vacation to Key West. “The only expense to the family is transportation,” said Gage, who with her team of local volunteers stock homes with food and helps arrange lunches and dinners for the families. The volunteers act as concierges, helping the families plan excursions donated by local businesses, like FURY Watersports and Lazy Dog paddling.

Last year, Kate Johnson and her husband Joe visited from Morgantown, North Carolina after hearing about it from a friend. She was battling breast cancer since 2010 and was in stage four of her diagnosis. “This island is so beautiful, and we love this atmosphere,” she said while lunching at Two Friends Patio one afternoon.

Lynn Cameron from St. Pete visited with her daughters. She was in treatment for the past four years and enjoyed the standup paddle boarding with her family the most. “I’ve always wanted to try it,” she said.

For the families who come down with children, Gage sets up childcare so the parents can enjoy a date night.

“We make it so the families can walk in and just exhale,” said Gage. “There is a lot of weight on their shoulders, and this is one week that they don’t have to think about anything.”

The families end the week with sunset and dinner at Ft. Zach, which is donated by Three Fine Cooks, who also donate the welcome dinner. Other donors include Chicago’s and Historic Tours of America.

“It’s amazing listening to these families share their stories at the end of the week,” said Gage. “Most tried things they’ve never tried before. It’s why we do this, these families will have these forever memories.”

March 15 is the deadline to have the houses pinned down for the families. To donate a house for the week of June 19, or get more information on the program, call Gage at 305-879-2655 or email [email protected].

“It’s an uncomplicated, unscheduled week for the breast cancer patients. They are in charge, not the disease.” –Amy Gage, Key West’s Little Pink Houses of Hope coordinator.

Little Pink Houses of Hope provides a free week long vacation for breast cancer patients and their families. “We believe a cancer diagnosis does not just affect the patient, but the entire family,” said founder Jeanine Patten-Coble. “Every beach retreat is designed to help families relax, reconnect and rejuvenate during the cancer journey.” More information on the program can be found at

“We are always looking for GFS gift cards, or things we can add to the welcome or farewell package,” said Gage. Last year, a local artist donated artwork for the families to take home, and Adventure Imaging donated family photographs at the beach.

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Kristen Livengood is a Marathon High School and University of South Florida grad, mom of two beautiful little girls, and wife to some cute guy she met in a bar. She enjoys red wine, Tito's, Jameson, running (very, very slowly), and spearfishing.