First-time women’s retreat well-supported

Duane Hicks

The inaugural all-day women’s holistic health retreat at the Copper River Inn here Saturday gave a boost towards the Rainy River District Shelter of Hope having a permanent presence in Fort Frances.
“The fundraiser was a fabulous start to obtain a permanent presence in Fort Frances,” said outreach worker Heather Johnson, who organized the retreat.
More importantly, however, it brought 86 women together “to learn about wellness, community causes for women, grief and emptying our ‘backpacks,’ releasing emotions through art, and healing your body through yoga, meditation, and mindfulness,” she added.
“The people who attended participated fully,” Johnson noted. “Connections were made, and it was clear that women are interested in having a central place in Fort Frances.”
As a first-time event, Johnson admitted the day “went better than planned.”
“I organized it but the presenters, singers, and vendors really blew it away,” she enthused.
“We have such talented women in our district and for the ones in the spotlight on Saturday, that talent really shines through.
“I am so thankful for my employer, Donna Kroocmo, and the Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope for believing in this idea when I presented it and for supporting me through the entire process,” Johnson added.
Kroocmo, executive director of the women’s shelter, said the retreat “was very healing.”
“There was an absolutely gifted group of speakers with gentle souls,” she remarked. “Heather did an excellent job in selecting the speakers.
“If the event was an indication of what women in the west end [of the district] are capable of doing, anything the Shelter of Hope decides to move forward with will be successful,” Kroocmo added.
“They are dedicated and genuine in their desire to assist other women,” she noted.
“I was quite impressed and marvelled at the local positive feminist spirit in action.”
Art therapist Lindsay Hamilton, who was one of the presenters on Saturday, said the retreat followed a lineage of women’s health symposiums which were held locally in the latter half of the last decade and which her mother, Linda, helped organize.
“We need to come together. We need to be here for each other,” Hamilton said of the need for such events.
Quoting social critic Matthew Arnold, she noted, “If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.”
“In light of all of the things going on in the media, with Harvey Weinstein, human trafficking, and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, it is so important that we come together to be a force for those that cannot speak or those that are disenfranchised or on the fringes,” Hamilton stressed.
“Ultimately as women, we’re nurturers and we’re caregivers, and we can help make the world a better place,” she added.
“But we cannot take on those tasks until we know how to care for ourselves.”
Johnson stressed that alongside the women who attended, the retreat had many supporters.
These included donors who purchased tickets for those who could not afford to attend, those who gave financial donations towards the shelter having a permanent presence, and those who sent letters of support of such a presence.
Some supporters even asked for another similar event to happen here soon.
Zoe George of the local Chiefs women’s hockey team was in attendance to announce her team is selling tickets to its social set for Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Memorial Sports Centre, which are available at Lakewood Tire and from the players.
Part of the proceeds will go towards the Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope.
Johnson said the next fundraiser she has planned will be held at La Place Rendez-Vous on Jan. 27. The event will run from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
“It is a ‘paint-nite’ fundraiser and we have 100 spots for women to attend, connect, and share once again,” she noted.
Tickets cost $45 each and are available via the Paint Nite website: