Families involved in Lift Disability Network’s virtual Breakaway retreat got to come together for a socially distanced movie night at Foundation Academy.
For families involved with Lift Disability Network, one of the highlights of the year is the summer Breakaway retreat.
As with many other events and camps globally, though, the coronavirus pandemic forced the nonprofit to get creative with its camp offering. This year, Breakaway went virtual.
At Lift Disability Network, the mission is to inspire individuals and families living with disabilities to discover a new vision for their future. Its Breakaway retreat normally takes place at a convention center, where families step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to come together for five days and connect with others.
“We call it a family experience,” Lift Disability Network founder Jim Hukill said. “We have events going all week long; we have major things that people can come to; we have a lot of activities. We give them the opportunity to be our show, so we have talent shows and dances and all kinds of stuff like that. But this year with COVID, we couldn’t do that.
“We have been working a little bit in the virtual world already with some of our monthly events ... so we just said, ‘Hey, what would happen if we did Breakaway for four days and do it all virtual?’” he said.
Going virtual is exactly what Lift Disability Network and its partner families did, with some help from the West Orange community. From June 23 to 26, the nonprofit used Zoom as its platform to connect Breakaway families and bring them together for various activities throughout the day.
“What we’ve done is, using that tool, we opened up a meeting that was 12 to 15 hours long, and they would log into that link throughout the day, and we would place them into different breakout groups,” Hukill said. “We literally could put them in different groupings and classes all at the same time, and we just learned how to do it. It’s been really good.”
Each family registered for Breakaway also received “camp in a box,” which included all the supplies necessary to participate in the activities at home.
Although Lift Disability Network volunteers weren’t sure about how some activities would translate virtually, Hukill said they were pleasantly surprised.
And on Friday, June 26, Breakaway culminated in a big way — a dinner and movie night held at Foundation Academy’s Tilden Road campus. Although lightning in the area put a damper on the originally planned drive-in format, the show went on inside the school gym — socially distanced, of course.
“Our families … are among the most vulnerable, and they have been isolated for a while,” Hukill said. “They live life with isolation typically, but the COVID virus has really intensified that isolation. We’ve determined that what we want to do is make sure they’re staying connected, and that’s been our whole theme even with other events that we’ve been doing through this time.”
Hukill also said community partners Pammie’s Sammies, Frozen Cow Ice Cream, Foundation Academy, The Lakeside Church, First Baptist Church of Winter Garden, We Are Winter Garden and Imagine That Promo were instrumental in helping make Breakaway 2020 a success.
“We have great partners and sponsors that have helped us,” he said.