As a massage therapist at Spa Gregorie’s back in 2006, Michael Conte volunteered with Greet the Day, a non-profit dedicated to providing free spa treatments to those fighting cancer. Today, as director of spa and wellness at Meadowood Napa Valley, Conte has recently partnered with the charity to offer Greet the Day retreats for eight patients four times a year.
Greet the Day, the brainchild of spa veteran Scott Duncan, began as a program offered at Spa Gregorie’s back in 2003. In 2005, it became a bonafide 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. To date, the charity has provided more than 11,000 complimentary oncology services, including infusion center and inpatient massage, oncology massage and skincare client clinics, as well as spa retreats.
I spoke with Conte recently to learn more about how and why he is working with Greet the Day.
Michael Conte: I lost my father to cancer in 1999, and that’s why I got into this career. When I was first working as a massage therapist for [founder] Angela Cortright at Spa Gregorie’s, they were doing Greet the Day there, in 2006. When I found out they were doing it, I signed up to get certified. I worked with the organization for about two years. When I became the spa director at Montage Laguna Beach in 2014, I implemented the program there.
I joined Meadowood Napa Valley in June of 2015, and we celebrated our first anniversary this past November. It really took that time to get the business grounded, and now that we’ve done that, Greet the Day was the first initiative I wanted to make sure that we implemented.
How many therapists showed interest in becoming certified?
Fourteen out of eighteen therapists are certified. This is a volunteer program, and it was their decision if they wanted to sign up. They’re volunteering their time and talent, and they get continuing education credits for it. Each therapist signs up for a minimum of two retreats.
We closed the spa for three days in January for training, and it was amazing. I’ve had great feedback from my therapists on how great it was. Like everything, you’ll have therapists a little more in tune than others who will be able to take tougher cases. One of the great things about the retreat, while guests are undergoing medication, we go over everyone’s intake forms and talk about what will be the best type of [spa] treatment. It’s an open forum for us all to share, and it’s a great educational experience for all.
What’s your biggest hope?
The goal is to build awareness for programs like this. I’d love to see more spas implement programs like Greet the Day. It’s nice to be able to give this to people who are undergoing cancer, but the therapists get a lot out of this, too. It’s really rewarding—probably the most rewarding work for me, personally, that I’ve ever done.
What’s your advice to other spa directors who’d like to go this route?
Research and referral is always very important. Really do your homework, go to the company’s website, find out about their mission, etc. When I was at Montage Laguna Beach, the spa director from Ojai called me and said she heard about how I had brought in Greet the Day. We talked, and she brought it in to her spa.
Have you found that those undergoing treatments for cancer are avid spa-goers?
I haven’t encountered anyone who is an avid spa-goer. For the most part, there’s a lot of emotion around it [the spa experience]—it makes cancer survivors a little wary—they haven’t been touched in a long time. A lot of emotional breakdowns happen in these rooms, it’s important to let them know this is a safe environment. Part of the training is the emotional release that can happen in the room. There are people who could cry through the entire treatment—to allow them to have that emotional release is a huge healing process for them.