Debra Doricchi grew up in the Bronx until the age of 12, when the family moved to what she considered upstate New York, near West Nyack. This was their first house, and she couldn’t believe that she and her sister had a yard, grass, trees, a swing set, and the ability to convince her parents to let her take in a stray cat.
It was a very exciting experience, making up street games to occupy the day, and much different from city apartment living. If asked if she would go back and change any experiences of her younger years, her answer would be no. It’s those moments that she reflects on now, and can see how much they contributed to her personality and character.
Graduating from high school in 1970, Debra went on to study design, merchandising and business management at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, later working in retail and fashion in the region. Later, she obtained licenses in Cosmetology & Acupressure/Massage Therapy.
After years of working in the city, Deb relocated upstate to New Paltz/ Woodstock, where she met her first partner. Having been out as a gay woman for a while, she began to wonder about other close relatives and family members. “Could it be I am the only one with this life style?” she asked. Sure enough, she wasn’t alone. Deb says, “If anyone has doubts that there could be hereditary factors involved in the makeup of one’s life style, my family will put that to rest—there’s at least 10 of us and counting!!!”
In her early 30s, Debra faced a difficult health crisis that set her back for several years. Her interest in alternative/complimentary medicine and meditative/self-healing got her through it and the experience changed both her life and career direction. Deb moved to Connecticut to attend a degree program in the study of Shiatsu Therapy. After receiving that degree in 1997, Deb moved with her partner to Annapolis, Maryland where she began a private practice, N2itive Shiatsu.
Unfortunately, in 2013, her relationship of 23 years ended, motivating her to relocate to Rehoboth Beach. Deb now sees clients on a part-time basis, giving her time to enjoy beach life.
Debra enjoys frequent walks along the beach, treasure hunting with her dog Harley, kayaking, hiking, biking, practicing Qi Gong, and Happy Hours with all the friends she has made over the last five years. She confesses, “I feel this is a special time in my life. I have a wonderful, caring practice, many good friends, my health, my dog, a strong gay/lesbian community, the beach, and—most of all—the time to enjoy it!”
Debra extends a heartfelt thanks to the late Steve Elkins, Murray Archibald, Monica Parr, and many others involved in giving their time, energy, dedication and all-out commitment to CAMP Rehoboth. She thanks them for providing a strong sense of community and pride.
When did you start volunteering at CAMP Rehoboth?
2013. I became friends with Nancy Hewish, who initially got me involved with volunteering, and then hooked up with Monica. Thank you both for allowing me to share in all the experiences CAMP Rehoboth has to offer.
What events/activities have you been involved with as a volunteer?
Women’s FEST events, Block Party, Broadwalk on the Boardwalk, and other CAMP Rehoboth music and entertainment performances.
Of the many events held by CAMP Rehoboth, which is your favorite and why?
The most powerful and touching event for me is the Broadwalk on the Boardwalk. To be in the presence of hundreds of women who have faced the hardship of cancer, who are cancer survivors, and those who have lost loved ones to cancer is a very emotional, memorable, heartfelt, and breathtaking moment.
Name a childhood mentor or someone who influenced you growing up.
Living in the Bronx as a child, there was an elderly neighbor, a Polish immigrant and widow, who would watch over me when my parents went to work. Many of the neighbors ignored her, thinking she was somewhat strange in her ways. I have always respected her and thought how unique this woman was. I loved spending every moment in her presence and having her talk and teach me things. I will always hold her dear to my heart, and often wish I could experience a moment in time like that again with someone so special.
If you could go back to age 18, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Wow…. I don’t know if I would want to change any of my experiences, be it the best of times or the worst. Personally, all my experiences exposed me to choices, gave me strength of character, direction, and formed the foundation of who I am today.
Favorite season at the beach and why?
Winter. I’m a Christmas baby, born December 20. I’m not much for the cold weather, but I do love the quiet peacefulness that winter brings. I enjoy walks along an empty beach sometimes covered in snow, the slower pace of downtown, having friends over, getting a fire going, opening a bottle of wine, and playing games.
Do you have an LGBTQ hero? Who and why?
Not a specific LGBTQ hero, per se, however, some women I admire and respect for their insights, strengths, perseverance, and activism in pursuing women’s rights and social justice are Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Billie Jean King, Joan Baez, Gloria Steinem, and Susan B. Anthony.
The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in the fight for equality. Did you expect to see this in your lifetime?
Yes. The past has been filled with many struggles, and we have had to find our way along a long dirt path, but now we have built a yellow brick road leading to a future full of hope, opportunity, and equality.
Given the current political climate, are you concerned about the possible loss of rights for the LGBTQ community?
The current political climate can very well pose a threat to our equality and rights, but we must stay strong and vigilant. We are not losers. We are all heroes and we will not surrender to the injustices of society, even if we have to stand alone for what we believe in.
Best year of your life?
Oh, I would say my 20s were the best times. I was brazen, carefree, radical, and spontaneous. I took off for two months with two friends in our hippie van and camped cross-country, having no set destinations. I backpacked with a friend in Europe for several weeks with only a book in hand, Europe on $5 a Day. Got in my van and camped however and whenever I wanted, especially throughout New England. It was just a time of freedom, non-commitment, and transition.
Christmas. Yes, I am like a little kid. I love the joy, warmth, excitement, decoration, and most of all, the giving that takes place. There is nothing that fills my heart more than to be able to give and share whether it is a holiday, or each and every day.
What advice would you give to the younger LGBTQ community?
Never give up on yourself. Your life is as important and meaningful as that of anyone else around you. Give it all you have, and pursue your goals as every one of us makes a difference in this world.
How long have you been coming to Rehoboth?
At least 15 years. My best friend owned a duplex here, so a few of us would drive from Maryland and spend long weekends relaxing, partying, and sharing some good times.
Since you began coming to Rehoboth, name the biggest change(s) you’ve seen.
Traffic and chaos, especially during the summer. Oh, and the season has gotten longer. Unfortunately, I find people are bringing their fast-paced lives, stress, and anxieties to the beach with them as well. It should really be a time for everyone to step back, take a deep breath, return a smile, and have fun.
Favorite U.S. city and why?
Three places come to mind—Utah, Arizona, and Santa Fe. The vastness and grandeur of nature will take your breath away. The canyons, mountains, crystal blue skies, wildlife, cultural experiences, peacefulness, fury, and mysteries all hold such a deep spiritual connection for me. It just feels like home.
What are you most thankful for?
Today, and every day. Living in the moment is what is most important to me. The past I cannot change, the future holds many unknowns, but the moment is where we have choices to create the most of our life. There is a quote from Lao Tzu, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Debra, we are grateful for your support, and the time you spend volunteering. We hope you will continue to volunteer and be a part of CAMP Rehoboth’s growth going forward.▼