After George Stout's fiancée, Cindy McKenzie, was diagnosed with breast cancer, he wanted to treat her to the vacation of a lifetime (think: cabana boys gracefully fanning her by the pool and carriage rides along the beach). But when he realized that kind of escape didn't exist, he created one himself: a weekend retreat from January 3 to 6 in Fort Myers, Florida for McKenzie and other women with breast cancer.
If you're seriously impressed by Stout's romantic gesture, he's right there with you. In fact, he says he never could have imagined putting on a retreat like this before running into McKenzie at a local restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana.
He was on a date with another woman when he spotted McKenzie's familiar face. As soon as his date went to the bathroom, he called his waiter over, pointed out the waitress who'd caught his attention and asked, "Is her name Cindy?"
"Yeah, but we call her teach," the waiter replied.
The woman, McKenzie, was Stout's best friend from third grade through high school, and was now a first grade teacher in their hometown. The two lost touch over the years, married other people, and had children. This was the first time in 25 years that they'd seen each other.
Stout started returning to the restaurant regularly, hoping to find McKenzie on her shift. When he finally did, he says things picked right back up. That was 18 years ago. The two have spent the past almost two decades supporting one another — including when McKenzie was diagnosed with Crohn's disease 16 years ago and again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer three and a half years ago, which led to her getting a mastectomy.
That's when Stout decided treat her with
"The idea originated because I really wanted to do something special, something unique, something different, something that would show that I truly do care," Stout says.
When Stout told McKenzie he wanted to give her a piece of paradise for a weekend, she suggested they turn his gesture into a larger retreat for women with breast cancer, and three years later their idea is coming to fruition. The retreat will take place on Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach, Florida at the from January 3 to 6, 2019.
Now in remission, McKenzie has been able to take an active role in the retreat planning process and she says she couldn't be more exited. The two have organized a weekend of activities, seminars, and spa treatments — from princess carriage rides to ocean express facials. On the last night, they've planned a sunset dinner cruise. Oh, and we can't forget the cabana boys.
Pricing for the retreat is , but drops if you share a room. As of now, close to 50 women have signed up. The two have set up a funding account for people who want to sponsor or , focusing mainly on women with metastatic or stage four breast cancer. They're hoping the retreat becomes an annual event sponsored by foundations, cancer centers, and support groups.
"We just kept thinking we want to make this a fun thing. There may be some people who have just gone through chemotherapy or major surgeries," says McKenzie. "We'll all be at different stages, so this is a 'forget about all your cares' kind of getaway."
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