With friends, Woodloch Celebrates “The Longest Day”
~shared by J. Ranner
Dr. Seuss once said, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.”
I remember being young and spending lots of time with my grandpa on golf cart rides around his property. We’d look for animals and just cruise around – just me, my siblings and cousins. Not a care in the world, and a smile on all of our faces. Exploring nature in the warm summer sun.
Looking back 20-plus years later, I can honestly say that these are some of the best times I’ve had in my life. And I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
It’s interesting: things are happening around all of us every day, and even the smallest occurrence or experiences can turn into a valued lifetime memory. You might not know it at the time, but this is how these things go. And as time passes, preserving these memories becomes so essential to you and your loved ones.
Woodloch has always been very near and dear to the hearts of the Barnett Family. Longtime Woodloch guests, they have stayed at our resort for 20 years (19 years in the exact same Woodloch Guest Home). Like so many of our guests, they have their own Woodloch traditions (screaming “WE’RE HOME” upon arrival, family dinners, “night swimming”, and running their own mini-pool games to name a few). And no matter how big their kids get or how far away life takes them, everyone puts aside their careers and other plans for those precious few days to drop everything, fly across country (or across the world) for their annual summer vacation. It simply wouldn’t be the same without the whole gang reuniting for a little bit of Woodloch magic.
As many of our guests already know (and those of you who find your way here will find out!), our private lake is a magical sort of spot. Nobody can really explain what it is that makes it so special, but all of us – guests and staff alike – are simply bewitched by its natural beauty.
Such was the case of Gary Barnett, the family patriarch. “He just LOVED the lake,” says Hillary Barnett, his daughter. “Paddle boating, canoeing, even just hanging out in a chaise was his favorite place at Woodloch.” For two decades, he would return with his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren to get his Woodloch fix. And every year, he would leave with just a few more memories for the cause.
As years passed, Gary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. It affects the memory- usually, the short term memory at first. As it progresses, it affects speech, orientation, self-care, and long-term memory.
In addition to AD, Gary also battled heart disease and diabetes. But his love for Woodloch persisted, even to the point of researching and finding a dialysis center close to Woodloch so he could get his treatments while on vacation. “There were several times Alzheimer’s got the best of him and he would be confused about where he was. The interesting thing was that when this would happen, he most often put himself at Woodloch. He would say ‘Isn’t this place wonderful? What a job they’ve done here.’ He was ALWAYS there in his mind.”
Gary was admitted to the hospital with significant issues stemming from his diabetes. Despite these sizeable setbacks, he never lost site of his family vacation to Woodloch and told the doctors he would do anything they asked – including painful and intense physical therapy – so he would be able to travel with his family to Woodloch this year.
Sadly, the day before he was to be released to physical therapy (he got clearance to return to Woodloch with his family), Gary suffered a heart attack and passed away. While his loss certainly weighs heavily on their hearts, the Barnett’s will still be at Woodloch this year – honoring the memory of Gary in a very special and touching way.
Hillary Barnett has been in contact with our resort for several months. She and her family wanted to do something to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. After mulling over a few options with Eric Ranner, Corporate Retreat Manager, they have collaborated on a truly awesome and truly “Woodloch” event.
On June 21st, Woodloch will be joining forces with the Alzheimer’s Association to celebrate “The Longest Day”– a national endeavor with the goal of raising funds and awareness for the fight against AD. Since Gary truly loved Lake Teedyuskung, we thought we’d incorporate it into a fun event to celebrate his life.
Woodloch will be hosting a Boat Build Regatta that afternoon (the longest day of the year!) in Gary’s memory. Teams will be given large sheets of cardboard, a roll of duct tape, a yard stick and a bed sheet and best of all… NO INSTRUCTIONS. In an hour or so, teams will fashion their best vessels and then will be challenged to set sail into our lake. Some boats will come back to shore, others will not… but smiles are guaranteed across the board, regardless of success or failure.
It’s bound to be a hot day- and the Barnett family has been kind enough to sponsor a “Purple Slushie Stand” for all guests that venture out for the build. They have also acquired house seats to Broadway’s hottest show – “Dear Evan Hansen” – which Woodloch has been selling raffle tickets to for the past few months. Visiting guests will have one last shot to donate to the cause for their chance to win seats AND a backstage tour to this newly crowned Tony award-winning show!
Woodloch has been on a mission to help family and friends create true lifetime memories since we opened our doors almost 60 years ago. And a lot of them have happened, and will most definitely continue to happen.
Additionally, our own company matriarch, “Aunt” Mary Kiesendahl, also battled Alzheimer’s in the later years of her life. It is a painful and heartbreaking process for the patient and all of the family and friends around them.
That is why this initiative is so dear to us. Aside from maybe a souvenir sweatshirt or a crumb cake for the road, MEMORIES are really what we produce. And to us, the quest of doing what we can to preserve those memories is near and dear to our hearts. While it’s a long road ahead, every little bit of time, energy and resources that can be spared will bring us one step closer to defeating AD.
We hope you will join us and the Barnett family at the lake on Wednesday, June 21st for an afternoon of fun and memory making. We know these precious moments are what life is all about and we thank you for choosing Woodloch to help you create them.