Announcing “Healing the Healers” retreats, a partnership of the Ilan-Lael Foundation and the San Diego County Medical Society.

Sacrifice and struggle have marked the past year, and few know that as intimately as the medical teams that staff hospital COVID units. The physical and emotional toll of the ongoing pandemic is real. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who have risked their — and their families’ — safety to serve us.

Even though it seems like the pandemic is showing signs of lessening, and soon to be behind us, for many, the pain and trauma are just beginning to surface.

This has left us asking, “How we can thank those who have given so much?”

Knowing that Ilan-Lael Foundation is the custodian of a special place of unusual beauty and serenity, where art and nature are a source of comfort and healing, we are inspired to offer a new program: we hope it will “give back” to our community and begin the healing process for frontline medical staffers. We’re calling it “Healing The Healers,” a day-long retreat at which to relax, restore and heal amidst the art and nature that is unique to Ilan-Lael. We aim to provide one group retreat each month for the remainder of 2021—and longer if needed.

Joining forces with our friends in the community has been an important and fundamental first step.

We partnered with our friend Holly Yang, MD, president of the San Diego County Medical Society, to help us reach out to the medical community and the frontline COVID 19 units to create our first “Healing the Healers” event. Held on Saturday, April 10th, it included eight COVID-floor and ICU nurses from Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. Cathy Conheim, LCSW, another long-time friend and supporter of Ilan-Lael, is a therapist and author who helped create the Healing the Healers program. She is the owner of the Hubbell Hut, also known as the Conheim/Brooks Guest House in La Jolla, and understands the vital connection between healing and art. Cathy will be leading the retreat’s discussion groups throughout the year.


We welcomed our first retreat attendees on a perfect April Spring morning.

That first response—the looks of amazement and wonder at the magical surroundings at Ilan-Lael—is always a moment we cherish, and it set the tone for a truly beautiful day. After refreshments and introductions, attendees gathered in the courtyard for a discussion with therapist Cathy Conheim on the ways we can recognize and manage stress. Executive director Marianne Gerdes then led a tour of the historic property followed by a delicious lunch al fresco.

After lunch, we were joined by local artist Timothy Hinchliff, trained in the Huichol yarn painting tradition, to lead our group in a prayer arrow art-making activity. Each arrow starts with a branch and colorful yarns, crystal, feathers, dried herbs and rice paper.

“The prayer arrow is something that you create with intention,” Tim explained. “You can write a goal for yourself or a prayer for someone you know, or it can even be a thank you put out into the universe.” Thoughout the creative process he shared enchanting stories and myths that inspired personal insight and discovery. The remainder of the day was spent taking a nature walk or just enjoying some down time to unwind and relax in our restorative surroundings. This was the first time these co-workers had a chance to be around one another outside of a hospital setting since the pandemic began over a year ago.

Here is what they had to say as the day drew to a close:

“As tired as we are, we all need to find spots such as this to remind us that life is beautiful.” —Annette

“We weren’t sure what to expect. The surrounding is relaxing, the people are friendly, and yes, it’s therapeutic!” —Pinky

“It helped me reconnect with myself, nature and helped get stress out.” — Leamy

Calling all Frontline COVID Medical Staff!

Due to the success of our first retreat, we are inviting more of our area’s frontline healthcare staff—doctors, nurses, aids, janitors, and all those who work in the San Diego’s COVID units—to join us for the next Healing the Healers retreat.

Retreats are designed to help heal and inspire, rest and relax, and re-charge, all while in a beautiful setting surrounded by art and nature! We limit retreats to small groups of 20 so that the experience is safe yet intimate. All COVID protocols are maintained and weather permitting, much of the day is spent out of doors. We wear masks (except when we have lunch), and all indoor activities are socially distanced. The drive is just over an hour from San Diego, so car-pooling is encouraged.

Retreats include:

  • Morning coffee and treats
  • Docent-led tour of Ilan-Lael
  • Art instruction and materials
  • Lunch al fresco
  • Discussion group
  • Mindful movement and self-care

We plan to offer one retreat each month for the rest of the year. If a retreat is filled, please add your name to our waiting list. We are adding new dates all the time.



CLICK HERE to Join our waitlist

Send a personal “Thank You” to our front-line COVID workers.

Support the “Healing the Healers” retreats. Help us reach our goal for 2021.

Top Photo: Author and therapist Cathy Conheim, LCSW led the open air discussion group. PHOTO Laurel Costa
Below: Our first retreat was held on April 10th and we welcomed a group from Sharp Chula Vista’s COVID 19 unit. 
We plan to offer one retreat each month for the rest of the year, or longer if needed.
The healing power of art. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Handmade and heart felt. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Notice the smiles behind the masks! PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Prayer arrows art activity. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Plenty of space for safe and socially distanced activities. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Prayer arrows art activity. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Nature’s healing in abundance. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Author and therapist Cathy Conheim, LCSW led the discussion group. PHOTO: Marianne Gerdes
A day of relaxation and fellowship. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
A tour of our historically designated grounds. PHOTO: Laurie Dietter
Local artist Timothy Hinchliff leads the prayer arrows art activity. PHOTO Laurel Costa
Local artist Timothy Hinchliff leads the prayer arrows art activity. PHOTO Laurel Costa
Author and therapist Cathy Conheim, LCSW led the open air discussion group. PHOTO Laurel Costa
The healing power of art and music! PHOTO Laurel Costa