Just Love at IslandWood

Author: Chelsea Martin

Islandwood Camp OutWhen I stepped off the plane into Seattle, Washington, I had no idea what a family campout was going to entail. All I knew was that my son was excited to get his hands dirty and play outside. Once getting to IslandWood, I was blown away by the scenic view of the thick forest, the lush green grass and ferns, and the calmness I felt. There was no sound of city life, lawnmowers, or cars honking. I heard birds chirping, leaves blowing, and laughter coming from other survivors excited about seeing a friendly face. It’s the happiness I always feel when I come to a TAPS event.

IslandWood is a beautiful place to connect with yourself, to connect with others, and most important to me, a deeper connection with my son. As soon as we arrived, we were immediately greeted with smiling faces from our TAPS Family. The mentors always have a way of making my son smile, while giving me the reassurance he is in good hands. They immediately started making connections with him, talking about his daddy, and eating cookies. Hearing him talk about his dad with a smile on his face, I knew this was the best place we could be. The weekend was divided into both family time, and adult time. The kids were able to go off with the mentors and have connections, while the adults were able to do the same. We also had time for ourselves to do a reflective hike and FOB (fall on bunk) time. Our reflective hike helped me quiet my mind by focusing on myself. I sometimes get lost in the day to day tasks and forget how heavy our world can get. It was nice to let it all go for a short time, re-center myself, and just think of the happy memories I had with my husband.

IslandWood had many different things to offer our families. They had treehouses, a fire tower, suspension bridge, yoga, and of course delicious food. There are many different trails that allow you to have quiet time and reflect on yourself. The only thing I had to worry about was the occasional rain shower or a banana slug crossing! IslandWood offers a hands on approach to learning with friendly staff that helps kids get back to nature. All weekend my son was tearing open tree bark to find bugs, seeking out salamanders, and playing hide and seek in the rain with other children, mentors, and IslandWood staff. We also spent time on their floating classroom, where we were able to go out onto the water and explore the raw beauty of what IslandWood has to offer.

The relationships we both made with other Gold Star families are the type that will last a lifetime. We both make such advances in our healing journey when we come to a TAPS event. I always feel a little lighter and find myself smiling more. We all have been through deep water, but in the presence of my TAPS Family, I can relax, laugh, and really take a breath. No judgement, just love.