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‘Awesome’ girls’ retreat set to go this weekend

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By Heather Latter Staff writer hlatter@fortfrances.com

This weekend, more than 60 girls from across the region will join together at Sunny Cove Camp for the fourth-annual “I Am Awesome! (And I Know It!)” self-esteem retreat to discover more about themselves through a variety workshops, discussions, and activities.

The event, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is for girls aged 11-16 and participants are coming from all over Rainy River District, as well as from Dryden and Thunder Bay.

“Everything has fallen into place and I know it’s going to be an excellent weekend,” enthused retreat director Renée Martin-Brown of Emo.

“We have some really great presenters and projects for the girls this year,” she noted.

Martin-Brown stressed the presenters she has lined up are inspirational, strong, determined, and loving women who are gifted in their specialties.

“They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they cannot wait to share their gifts throughout the . . . retreat this weekend,” she remarked, noting the workshops include drama, music, visual arts, yoga, creative writing, Internet safety, and overcoming adversity.

For the visual arts one, Jennifer Coats will be leading the girls in a chalkboard art project.

“Each girl has been asked to pre-choose an inspirational quote that is meaningful to them,” Martin-Brown explained, saying they will transfer the quote onto a black canvas using chalk markers.

“It’s a three-step project that gives them time to think about the words and how it impacts them, why they chose it, and how they can use that quote to inspire them in their everyday lives,” she reasoned.

Meanwhile, Kenora OPP Cst. Ronni Grosenick will be sharing tips about online safety.

“She has a video that the girls are going to watch that talks about the dangers of the Internet, encompassing cyber-bullying, explicit photos, and people online not being who you think they are,” noted Martin-Brown.

“Sometime the girls aren’t having these conversations at home and we don’t want them to learn these lessons the hard way.”

The drama portion of the weekend will be presented by Nancy Daley Fulton of the local Canadian Mental Heath Association and Martin-Brown.

“We’re going to be doing it a little bit different this year,” Martin-Brown said, noting while the past few years focused on drama techniques, this year is going to have a mental health awareness theme.

“It’s going to be a presentation in a role-play manner,” she explained.

“The girls will still have an acting component, but it will incorporate mental health through the different scenarios.”

The session will be based upon a program called “Living Life to the Full.”

“We’ve taken out what we think are the most relevant components to cover with the girls,” Martin-Brown said.

“It’s all about ways you can live a healthy life, how you can change your thinking, and how you have the power to react to a situation in a number of ways.”

Martin-Brown also is pleased to have local speaker and Fort Frances Times’ correspondent Robin McCormick presenting to the group.

“She’s going to talk to the girls about overcoming adversity,” Martin-Brown noted.

“Robin’s had many life experiences that has shaped who she is; different relationships, some that were healthy, some that may not have been so healthy.

“Her message to the girls is that you might make a wrong decision, but there’s always a way to come out of it; always a way to see the other side and to make it right,” she stressed.

“So don’t ever give up.”

Becky Holden once again will be doing yoga with the girls while Joelle Barron will be offering a creative writing session.

Katy Trimble of Maple Street Photography will document the retreat while Danette MacIntyre will be the RN on site.

Melanie Williams of Party Rock DJ Services will provide music for the semi-formal dance on the Saturday night.

While there is no fee to attend the retreat, the girls were asked to raise a minimum of $300 and also encouraged to participate in group fundraising projects.

They held a “Music in the Park” fundraiser and food booths at various community events, in addition to holding their own garage sales, bakes sales, lemonade stands, tag days, and bottles drives.

Used as a “pay it forward” incentive for girls who will be attending in future years, this year’s fundraising totalled $17,000.

Martin-Brown also is thankful for the retreat’s corporate sponsors, including the OPP Youth Foundation, Cloverleaf Grocery in Emo, Gillons’ Insurance, the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club, The Sharp Group, and J2M Apparel, as well as other local businesses that participated in their group fundraising efforts.

“I think if the girls can find their self-worth at a young age, then going out into the world, they will know their own value and pass it on to the people they meet,” Martin-Brown said.

“They can be mentors for others.

“The hope for the weekend is they will go on a journey of personal discovery through these workshops, and they are going to find the one thing they are really good at,” she added.

For more information about the retreat, visit i-am-awesome.ca

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