We all remember that fateful day September 11, 2001 when the planes hit the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. President Obama was correct when he said “We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others”. The majority of those involved in saving lives and searching for the WTC occupants were members of New York’s finest – the woman and men of the NYPD and the NYFD (New York Police and Fire Departments); over 500 of these rescuers lost their lives that day as well as the 3000 other victims who were in the WTC when disaster hit. Over the next few weeks the staggering numbers of dead shocked us all. There were stories of heroic acts of saving lives and of lives lost in helping others. What many people may not know is that for the next 8-12 months thousands of police officers and fire fighters (our 911 First Responders) were involved in sifting through the debris of the WTC. They were looking for any remnant (clothing, documents, etc.) that could link to anyone lost in the tragedy so that family could put closure on the loss of loved ones. During the rescue and clean-up phases, 911 First Responders were exposed to countless toxins. As of November 2006, according to the Village Voice, 75% of these 911 First Responders have experienced serious illnesses – many with cancer,
In December 2010 Karin Cooke and Lew Whitney (founders and owners of Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats in Hawi) were watching the Daily Show with John Stewart when Mr. Stewart presented a panel of 911 First Responders who all had cancer and had lost their jobs, their health benefits and their homes. For 5-6 years our US Congress had been pondering a bill extending health benefits to all 911 First Responders. Every time the bill was presented it was rejected by one or both parties. Both Karin and Lew were moved by the appalling state of affairs of our government’s apparent lack of support for those who had risked their lives to help others and our country. Both Karin and Lew vowed to do something to help the 911 First Responders. A letter offering a one-week residential cancer retreat stay at Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats at no charge to any 911 First Responder was sent to John Stewart of the Daily Show and a copy to New York City Mayor Bloomberg. The mayor sent a copy to both the NYPD and NYFD commissioners who in turned sent it out to their more 60,000 members.
Francine and Laurie, detectives with NYPD and 911 First Responders, contacted Kokolulu in the spring of 2011. Both now have cancer diagnoses and were interested in attending one of Kokolulu’s cancer retreats.
The two ladies came to Kokolulu Farm and participated in a weeklong group cancer retreat along with several Big Island residents with cancer (Kokolulu offers Big Island residents with cancer participation at no charge as well). In the weeklong retreat they learned many new researched based skills on how to better cope with their cancer diagnosis. They enjoyed three nutritious meals a day with food harvested from Kokolulu’s farm prepared by French trained chef Doug Seymour (a cancer survivor and past Kokolulu Cancer Retreat participant) and learned ways to prepare nutritious foods for themselves that don’t require a lot of time and energy. Food was also donated by Chaba’s Thai food in Kohala.
Both Francine and Laurie were moved by their experience at Kokolulu, and the sights and friendliness of the people of North Kohala.
Upon the completion of the week the women wrote:
L. NY 911 First Responder – “The retreat has made me learn to listen, share my feelings, and communicate with others and meet new friends. I gathered so much information concerning breast cancer and all my other concerns that will help me put together an effective plan for healing myself from cancer. Karin and Lew were wonderful. The informal and caring way of dealing with the others and me made for a safe environment. The great tasting and organically grown food on the farm, the beautiful property, views of the ocean and mountains, great weather, and the wonderful clean air in paradise helped heal my body”
F. NY 911 First Responder -” What a wonderful and positive experience. I felt loved and cared for by the staff at Kokolulu. I learned many effective tools that will help me deal with my breast cancer and allow me to heal myself. Both Karin and Lew were very generous with their time and helped me to get in touch with myself. The laughter and crying from all the participants was so helpful! Thank You Kokolulu!”
Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats Inc. (KFCR Inc.) is a place and a process. Their mission is straightforward. “KFCR Inc. is a 501 (c) (3)non-profit organization that provides education and charitable assistance to those affected by cancer by providing holistic healing retreats, research publications, and sharing tools that empower participants to take charge of their own healing journey.” And the vision of KFCR is simple, “We envision a safe, healing, nurturing space where those affected by cancer are able to fully access a deeper healing, while nurturing body, mind and spirit through scientifically proven integrative techniques. “
An on-site farm provides the retreat participants with healthy, organically grown food and medicinal herbs shown by research to boost the immune system and enhance the healing process.”