Liam had such a rough start to life that mom Nicole wanted to cry.
Two years later, she did. But they were tears of joy, thanks to the help of ARC.
Liam was born with a hernia, colic, reflux, and developmental delays, and was an “unhappy and unhealthy little boy,” Nicole said.
Now twenty-seven months, Liam’s “life has improved so much. He's an extremely happy little wild man."
Nicole credits the help of ARC occupational and physical therapists who meet with her and her son regularly to help him catch up.
While it was "quite horrible" in the beginning, Liam improves every week; now sitting and even beginning to stand. Nicole said she worried initially about being a good mom, because even though she already had a four-year-old, there is so much to know about Liam's care. ARC showed her how to help him tackle self-feeding, and to continue developing his fine and gross motor skills.
It's been a tough journey; one that Nicole says she couldn't have undergone without ARC ’s “miracle workers.”
Lindsay "Drew" Miller, 23, is an example of what people can accomplish when they try.
He is blind in one eye and uses a walker, but is always willing to tackle something new. He’s helped answer phones, pack boxes, and shred paper, all part of ARC‘s pre-vocational job training program.
"If they can find something for me to do, they can find something for anyone," he says, adding his multiple disabilities initially made it hard for him and his mom Janet to find a day program in Richmond where he could participate.
Drew’s incredible "can do" spirit may have earned him the organization's “Individual of the Year’’ award, but he says every day is its own reward at ARC. “There’s never a dull moment."
Efren is a go-getter. Since joining ARC last year, he has been steadily promoted and now provides ground maintenance for the Defense Supply Center in Richmond.
All this, despite having lost his left hand five years ago.
"Efren has received nothing but high marks about his abilities and work ethic," said ARC supervisor Caleb Violette.
Among his duties, Efren, 67, tends to the landscape at the federal installation, as well as performing additional tasks when needed.
"We are very lucky to have such an outstanding employee working with us today," Caleb said, while Efren echoed a similar enthusiasm about ARC. "I like the people," he added.
When Dazeray graduated from high school in 2011, her parents wanted to find a program where she wouldn't “sit around," her mom said.
Dazeray keeps busy at Camp Baker. An outgoing person, she likes the day support program’s daily activities that include swimming and horseback riding in the summer, along with trips to local parks and shopping trips year round. She also shines at the camp's holiday dinners, where she’s been known to give instructions on good table manners.
"She enjoys going there and when she’s away from ARC, she talks about it constantly," her mom said. "At times I've tried to look at other places, and she says, 'No way!'"
Without day support, Dazeray probably would be staying with relatives during the day where there would be less activity. For her, this program has been the best solution.
"They look out for her there. I feel she's safe."
Like most teens, Darrall, 13, likes to stay busy. And like most parents, his dad Darrall Sr. thinks that's a good idea.
Both Darrall and his brother attend ARC's afterschool program and their dad says they both like the daily activities that include art projects, cooking classes, and community outings. "It's nice. That's what kids need."
"They don't ever want to miss it, " he added, saying Darrall especially enjoys ARC-sponsored trips to places like the grocery store, where they learn to shop. (Also, as a typical teen, he "likes to eat.")
Darrall attends ARC every week day afternoon during the school year and all day during the summer.
"I don't know if there's any program better than ARC. It not only saves me, it saves them, too," Darrall Sr. concluded.
The chance to stand on her own two feet.
That's what attending Camp Baker has given Colleen.
Wheelchair bound, when Colleen, 28, returned home from overnight camp last summer, she was better able to stand briefly and pivot on own.
For her mom Missey, it was "the most wonderful thing," adding that it was just one example of how well the counselors encouraged and nurtured her daughter's abilities.
"Colleen is so used to us as her sole caretakers; being with others just opens up her world. They read to her, talked with her, and were absolutely far more patient than I am at 3 a.m., " Missey said, noting that one of her daughter’s challenges is being able to sleep.
In fact, Missey describes Colleen’s entire overnight camp experience with activities like a talent show, swimming, canoeing, and arts and crafts, as "expanding" and "exhilarating.”
"For us, this has been a Godsend."
Cody's mom Kendall usually has a hard time getting her son to have a conversation. He's fourteen, after all.
But when she picks him up at Camp Baker's summer program, he's nonstop. "Usually it's like pulling teeth to initiate conversation," but after spending time at camp, "he's so animated. I have to say 'slow down, buddy' as he lists everything he's done all week. It's really cool to see that."
Cody 's family first heard about Camp Baker from their local Down Syndrome group, and he's attended every summer ever since, now eight or nine years.
"He loves all the counselors, and he's kind of grown up with all the kids, " said Kendall. She knows he's happy while at camp because the staff post pictures for her on Facebook of him grinning "ear to ear."
"He talks about Camp Baker all year round. " Without it, Kendall said, "I would be very disappointed. He would be very disappointed."
In a cozy room at ARC, five-year-old Becky and her speech therapist Stephanie are playing a word game.
"What do cows drink?" asks Stephanie. "Milk," comes the reply.
"What does a red light mean?” "Stop."
Becky has come a long way from being the shy youngster who didn't speak at all before she was three, and was "tentative and timid," according to her dad Jose through an interpreter.
"What I respect most about ARC is their sensitive approach in helping my daughter," he added, saying that Becky has become so much more confident.
In fact, she now speaks in full sentences.
"I think you might lose," Becky says to her therapist, smiling, as the word game begins to wrap up.
As a baby, Hailey didn't babble. By the time she was three, she could only say five words.
Everyone said, "one day she'll just wake up and talk."
But she didn't, and that's when her mom Sarah turned to ARC.
"I was so worried about what would happen in kindergarten," if Hailey couldn't communicate, she said. Children were already asking why Hailey wasn't more talkative.
Her diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech meant she needed help in forming and then saying words. So every week, Hailey and her speech therapist meet at ARC to practice --with some dramatic results.
Hailey now speaks in full sentences.
"I know a lot of her improvement came from ARC" says Sarah. "And her therapist. I love her."