A retreat for fathers, children

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 12:13 p.m.

When Randall Mclelland imagined bonding time with his stepdaughter, he did not plan to venture onto hiking trails in a pine forest. But that's where they found themselves during a father-daughter retreat last year.


If you go

What: The Father-Son/Father-Daughter Summer Retreat, a two-day retreat to strengthen relationships between fathers and their children
Where: KevMen Retreat Center, 3718 NW 105th St., Ocala
When: The retreat begins at 6 p.m. June 28 and ends at 9 p.m. June 29
Cost: Fees are on a sliding scale from $150 to $250 per father-son or -daughter pair; $35 for an additional child. Scholarships available.
Contact: For more information, call Eric Diamond at 375-3001, ext. 3. For directions, call 281-1458 or 817-9386.

Then they came upon a full-length mirror, one of several exercises for the event.

The activity called for Mclelland to look in the mirror with his stepdaughter and exchange compliments.

"It was surreal having a full-length mirror in the woods," Mclelland said. "It added to the uniqueness of the moment, (which) made it memorable," he added with a laugh.

This was just one of the bonding activities at the father-son-daughter retreat held at the KevMen Retreat Center in Ocala.

The sixth annual retreat begins at 6 p.m. June 28 and continues through 8 p.m. June 29.

The retreat is a chance for fathers and their children to strengthen their relationships, said Jeffrey Weisberg, who is one of the founders of the event.

Fathers who sign up for the event range in age from 30 to 60, but all ages are welcome to attend, Weisberg said. Children must be at least 7 years old to attend the retreat.

Participants can choose to camp or sleep in a lodging house, he said. Camping equipment is not provided. Fees are on a sliding scale from $150 to $250 for a father-son or -daughter pair. The price includes room and board, food and activities. Scholarships are available upon request.

Registration begins Wednesday.

During the retreat, children and fathers split up into different groups with their camp leaders. Later, the pairs come together to share.

One activity, called Fear in a Hat, involves fathers and children writing down their deepest fears on slips of paper and reading them aloud.

"It's very rare that we have that kind of honest communication happen," Weisberg said. "We try to create an environment for the fathers and kids to feel supported."

Another bonding activity is the truth circle. One at a time, fathers and their children stand in the middle of a circle and share what they appreciate about each other.

"It's a very powerful experience to hear what the kids are feeling and thinking," Weisberg said. "A lot of the time in educational settings and relationships we don't ask each other deep questions. ... It's really important for the young people to know what the challenges are for their fathers."

Mclelland agrees.

He said it was reassuring when fathers shared similar challenges they faced as men and parents during the small group session.

"The weekend ... was set up around having fun where we're not telling the kids what to do," Mclelland said. "The parents and the children are being directed, which takes us (fathers) out of an authoritarian role and allows us to have fun."

Mclelland said his favorite team-building activity was the three-legged race.

He said he plans on bringing his stepdaughter and son this year.

"The stepparent role is a difficult one," he said. "There were a lot of bonding experiences. If a kid can't have fun with (his) parents, then they're not going to share anything."

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