Hope became a Chalfonte Kid last weekend. She's in good company.
Founded by a childhood friend of Mo's father, Chalfonte House in Elk Rapids is more than a big, Victorian home in one of Michigan's most-picturesque lake communities. It's been a retreat for kids and families in need of TLC for more than 20 years. And it's got a big place in Mo's heart.
She began spending weekends at the house as a teen amid a rough patch. Her parents thought she could use some guidance from their pal, Father Jim Meyer (who trained for the priesthood with Mo's father and is forever known as Jimeyer.) She connected with an amazing network of friends, some of whom have endured loss, hardship or illness, some haven't, but all of whom have friendly ears and knowing souls. It's the sort of place you aren't compelled to explain or share anything, but usually do anyway and feel better for it.
Mo has been part of a Women's Weekend for more than a decade that meets once a year at Chalfonte to drink wine, talk, laugh and cry. She's also a camp counselor there for a weeklong retreat for teenage girls. Adult Chalfonte weekends are full of wine, laughing, great food, rituals, sharing and euchre and backgammon matches that last well in the morning and so vicious they've been known to inspire grown men to call 70-year-old priests "jackasses." (OK. Maybe it was only one grown man and one priest. Guilty as charged.)
Initially formed for those with cystic-fibrosis and other life-threatening illnesses, Chalfonte has seen its share of triumph and loss. Some of those who've spent weekends dipping toes in Lake Michigan have died too young. Others went to support others and left touched by the support they received.
None depart before signing a leaf on a mural of a tree in what's called the trophy room. I added my name in 2002, a year before Mo and I married. Hope signed her name, with a little bit of help from Mom, last weekend. It was a special moment in a weekend that's always special.