Riverview, Irsay take separate paths to exotic getaways: Nancy's Retreat organizers start dueling events

September 25, 2006

One retreat tempts central Indiana women to "capture their dreams"-and grab a makeover while they're at it-during a long weekend in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The other promises "a trip of a lifetime" in nearby Nuevo Vallarta.

Last year, a hurricane swept away plans for the second annual Nancy's Retreat getaway, which was created by Nancy Irsay and the Riverview Memorial Foundation.

This year, different visions split the retreat in two and created competing trips that benefit separate charities.

Neither side is eager to discuss the split, but both forecast plenty of room in the local not-for-profit landscape and no big drop in amounts collected. Consultants agree, although they say the organizers might have to make some changes and market a little harder.

"To me, this is a making-the-pie-bigger circumstance as opposed to slicing the pie into more pieces," said Bryan Orander, an Indianapolis-based not-for-profit consultant with ties to neither trip.

Irsay and the foundation debuted Nancy's Retreat in 2004 and raised $25,000 with four days of rest and recreation at a resort south of Cancun.

Proceeds from the trip-which was loosely modeled on the all-male "Mickey's Camp" run by Michael S. Maurer, co-owner of IBJ Corp.-went to the Indianapolis-based Seraphim Cancer Research Foundation and the Riverview Foundation's Women's Endowment Fund.

The Riverview Memorial Foundation serves Noblesville's Riverview Hospital.

Irsay, widow of Colts owner Robert Irsay, said the split among organizers occurred in February. Foundation Executive Director Trish Oman told her Riverview wanted a sharper focus on its Noblesville customer base.

Oman declined to talk about the split. Irsay said she decided to continue Nancy's Retreat with her own focus.

"I wanted to try to personalize it more with my flavoring," she said.

She has arranged for an artist from the Herron School of Art and Design to teach color drawing at her retreat, which takes place in November. She recruited a senior makeup artist from Saks Fifth Avenue to perform makeovers and her favorite boutique, DL Lowry, to discuss hairstyle trends and treatments.

Other speakers will discuss money management, legal issues and menopause. Irsay said most of the guests are her friends, and she's drawing mainly from Hamilton County and Indianapolis.

"There's plenty of women out there trip provides a way to connect with women and create a greater awareness of philanthropy. Then there's the relatively small charitable element. that need retreats and need to get away, and they're two different markets," Irsay said.

The Riverview Women's Retreat, which starts Sept. 29, promises a packed agenda, too.

First Indiana Corp. Chairwoman Marni McKinney will be the keynote speaker. Others include Pam Conrad, a certified clinical aromatherapist; artist Gloria Fisher; and Jackie Walker,

Irsay will donate $300 from each registration fee to charity. Riverview will chip in $100 from its fees. Both are charging a few hundred dollars more than the 2004 event did.

Nancy's Retreat also is asking participants to bring along a bag full of school backpacks to donate to a Mexican orphanage, said Sally Brown, president and CEO of Ambassadors for billed as a "doctor of closetology." "The focus of our retreat is self, health and wealth," Oman said, adding that the Children, who will teach yoga on the beach for Irsay's trip.

Both retreats also lined up sponsors to boost their contributions. Irsay hopes to raise $15,000 for each of her charities, which she admits is "not a lot, but enough to make it worth everybody's while."

Riverview might approach the $25,000 raised in 2004, Oman said.

Irsay's trip had booked 65 women as of Sept. 19. Oman would say only that Riverview's has fewer than 100.

That relatively small size should keep the two trips from stealing guests from each other, said Jessica White, an Indianapolis-based fund-raising consultant.

"I think women are always looking for opportunities to network and to socialize with other women of like mind," she said. "In that sense, I would think there would be room for both of them."

Both trips might have to market a little harder to fill their guest lists at first, Orander said. Ideally, he added, the retreats would occur at different times of the year, so guests could hit both.

Still, neither should hurt for customers because trip prices that hover around $1,500 put the getaways within range of most professional people in the market.

The exotic locales also should attract many guests, White said.

"Part of the appeal is seeing someplace new, trying someplace different," she said.

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