A Day at the Maressa Center for MS Wellness

January 9, 2020

During the fall of 2019, Jefferson Health New Jersey implemented a new therapeutic retreat for the multiple sclerosis (MS) community. The reoccurring program, the Maressa Center for MS Wellness, is supported by the Joseph A. Maressa Fund and through the Jefferson Health Foundation - New Jersey. Joseph, treasurer of the Jefferson NJ Hospital Board of Trustees, knows first-hand how living with MS can impact one’s life, having watched his brother live through it.

For people with MS, activities geared toward improving physical, emotional, and spiritual health are essential to reducing symptoms and even slowing disease progression. This is because stress exacerbates their symptoms, and can lead to overwhelming fatigue.

Brain exercises, healthful diets, socialization, and stress reduction are all core components of MS treatment. The Maressa Center for MS Wellness brings all of these together, for FREE collaborative days of learning, relaxing, and sharing.

A day at the Maressa Center for MS Wellness, held 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., starts with a nutritious breakfast. Proceeding activities include guest speakers; body and mind exercises instructed by healthcare professionals; spa experiences, such as haircuts, manicures, and massages; art therapy led by local artist Nicole Blank; cooking demonstrations led by Danielle Hall, RDN; and lunch.

Antoinette Shay has attended the retreat three times. While she’s enjoyed every activity, she shared that her favorite part was the cooking demonstration. “I learned so much that I was able to implement immediately at home. I hardly ever used to eat breakfast, but now I do every day. I feel so much healthier!”

“It’s nice getting to know the other attendees and having time to socialize,” Antoinette added. “Before this, I didn’t have many plans throughout the week. This gave me something to truly look forward to.”

Lisa Galda, diagnosed with MS in 1999, says she’s regained her freedom through these retreats.

“We weren’t held to a strict time schedule, which was great. I felt okay if I showed up late one day. It can be difficult for many people with MS to find transportation and get places exactly on time,” Lisa explained. 

“Each retreat offered various new learning experiences. It was a great forum to meet people and share our own stories,” Lisa continued. “The spa experiences made me feel like a ‘normal’ girl again; not that I am not ‘normal,’ but I don’t usually find time to pamper myself. Because of this, I’ve felt more relaxed, and I’ve noticed my sleep has improved as well.”

Sudie Barbage, a long-time nurse and yoga instructor, thought the retreat was a wonderful opportunity for people with MS to get together, saying “There’s a lot of strength in being with like-minded people.”

“All the services offered are great, especially the spa experiences. When you have MS, you can’t always leave the house, and when you do go out, you have to focus on only the necessary errands,” Sudie added. “The massages relived my pain and stiffness. Not to mention, there’s so much healing in the human touch. I also enjoyed the art therapy, which I have never tried before now! I think it is a great way to promote mindfulness. Overall, I feel like my self-esteem has been boosted.”

The Maressa Center for MS Wellness offers retreats on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. To register, click HERE. To stay up-to-date, follow the Maressa Center on Facebook by clicking HERE.