What is Blue Skies?
Blue Skies is a ministry that offers week long beach retreats to bring the hope and love of Christ to families living through the challenges of pediatric cancer.
How does it work?
Retreats are held in rented condos at Windmark Beach, on the Florida panhandle. While each family has their own bedroom(s) and bathroom, they join with the other families and volunteers for meals and activities at a central location. Around 120 people attend each retreat comprised of 10-12 retreat families and 40-45 volunteers. Volunteers serve our guest families by pampering, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the daily responsibilities so that our guests can focus on having fun together.
How is Blue Skies funded?
Blue Skies is a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt charitable organization and is funded through donations from retreat volunteers, sponsors, friends and financial partners. Every contribution makes a significant difference in our organization and we gratefully acknowledge them all.
How much does it cost to go to Blue Skies?
Besides transportation to and from the retreat, the cost of attendance for guest families – housing, meals/snacks, and all program activities are pre-paid entirely by donations from volunteers and other Blue Skies fundraising activities. Each volunteer is required to raise support or personally donate $600 per adult/$150 per child to cover their cost to attend the retreat.
Can guest families return and serve as a retreat volunteer?
Absolutely! We gladly welcome and encourage guest families to come back as a retreat volunteer after their first experience with Blue Skies. Even when their child is still on treatment, there are roles at the retreat where they can serve others and give back. Families that have returned to serve while their child is still undergoing treatment have shared that it was as helpful and meaningful to “be on the other side” of the retreat as a volunteer. One mom stated, “It was wonderful being able to help someone experience the hope and joy that we found at Blue Skies. We loved being part of the volunteer family as much as being a guest family.” Typically, those who have benefited from the ministry are our greatest voices to share the vision and raise support for Blue Skies as well as give comfort to other families. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says that as God, the Father of compassion and comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him. Their stories and experiences truly inspire others. Like all of our volunteers, they are asked to raise or give the requested financial support so that the families we serve can attend Blue Skies at no cost.
Where is Blue Skies?
The retreats take place in the community of Windmark Beach in Port St. Joe, Florida which is on the Florida panhandle. The Blue Skies office is located in Marietta, Georgia – just north of Atlanta.
Who can serve/volunteer at the retreats?
We seek volunteers who align with our mission to share the love of Christ and put others first. Volunteers must agree to abide by our guidelines and complete an application process which includes personal references. Blue Skies also reserves the right to request a criminal background check on all volunteers with their permission. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old/high school graduates to serve without their parents.
When is my child old enough to serve/volunteer with me?
We encourage families to serve together. It is a great way to teach children how to serve others. When children are about 5-6 years old, able to play independently and mature enough to understand our mission of “others first”, they are probably ready to serve with you. We do strongly advise volunteer parents to find other arrangements for the week for children under 5 years old so that you will be able to focus on the guest families. Click here to read Serving with Children.
How do you select the retreat families?
- Families who have a child currently undergoing treatment for pediatric cancer (or who have been off of treatment for a short season) may submit an application. Medical professionals can refer a family to our program or the families can apply directly.
- Families are welcome regardless of race, religious affiliation, financial status or geographical location.
- We believe that it is important for the entire family to experience Blue Skies together, so we give priority to families whose entire family can attend the entire retreat together.
- We give priority to families who have not previously attended a Blue Skies Retreat.
- Our vision is to offer a retreat to every family living through the challenges of pediatric cancer who is looking for hope; looking for a reprieve from the dark clouds and storms of life; looking for a place “where skies are blue”.
- Once a family has been served at a Blue Skies retreat, we encourage them to come back as volunteers, to “pay it forward” and make it possible for other families to experience this unique and special vacation. Blue Skies must raise $2500 per guest family to attend a retreat. Generous friends, Board members, community partners, retreat volunteers and even former guest families are committed to raise the funding so that our guest families receive their special week at Blue Skies at no cost to them other than their transportation to and from the retreat. Because of the limited number of families we can serve on each retreat, our Family Team (comprised of medical professionals, members of the oncology support team and parents who have had a child with cancer) thoughtfully evaluates each application before selecting the guest families.
- Guest Families must obtain a recommendation/referral from their child’s oncology health care team along with medical clearance from their child’s physician. Children should be in stable health, feeling up to participating. While there is a nurse present at each retreat, the child’s parents must be able to provide all physical care and including medications or treatments required while away from home.
- Families are asked to respect the guidelines of Blue Skies and sign waivers/consent forms as part of signing up to attend a retreat.
How do retreat families sign up and how do volunteers apply?
How can I help?
- Volunteer…your time to serve at a retreat. Our retreats would not be possible without compassionate volunteers who give their time to help take care of our families.
- Pray…for our families, our volunteers and for those who make our retreats possible
- Give…partner with us financially, every gift is important and makes a difference.
If you know of someone (a business, school, church or individual) who would be interested in sponsoring a retreat family, their gift of $2500 will provide a family living through pediatric cancer renewed strength, hope and love.