Seated in the ARC lobby, Kelsey and her eight-year-old son Brion, look remarkably relaxed, considering that this past year included two kidney operations (Brion’s own transplant and his dad’s donation to the organ network), as well as a setback in Brion’s behavior with tantrums and “talking 90 miles a minute.”
“I’m not a medical person,” Kelsey said smiling, recalling how when Brion first came to them as a foster child years ago, he was in renal failure, needed dialysis and had a feeding tube. Along with special training for the family, there were countless visits to neurologists, cardiologists, you name it.
Things are now looking up. Brion’s adoption is final; he’s fully recovered from the operation and returned to school; and weekly visits to the ARC for speech and occupational therapy have worked wonders, too.
“I see progress at ARC. The transplant was a bump in the road and now he is slowly working back up. He’s come a long way,” Kelsey said.
”For us, everyday things that people take for granted are difficult for Brion. He now can write his name, but when he first came to us, he could barely hold a pencil.”
Brion clearly enjoys his time at ARC, where he’s learning how to clearly pronounce words and hone fine motor skills with hand-eye games. Seeing his speech therapist, Brion slid from his mother’s lap and made a beeline to her. “He’s like ‘the Mayor’ of everywhere we go. He’s so friendly with people,” Kelsey says.
Asked what she’d tell parents whose children face obstacles, her answer was straightforward.
“If you don’t know what to do, find out who does. It may seem like you are the only one, but chances are you are not.”
Christopher, 27, knows how to prepare for an interview, arriving at ARC one morning wearing a crisp, pressed shirt and warm smile. It is a skill he’s learning in ARC’s Workforce Development, along with following directions and managing money.
Both Christopher and his parents, Steve and Susie, hope he’ll have a job in the outside workforce one day .
Meanwhile, he alternates between employment training and working in ARC’s production facility, where earning a paycheck gives him confidence.
It was a scary time for Christopher’s parents when their son first graduated from high school. “What are other young adults with special needs doing?” they wondered. “Unfortunately, a lot were sitting at home watching TV, which is not what we wanted for Chris,” Susie said.
Their caseworker suggested ARC and right away it seemed like a good fit. “There is always something different to do, so it works well for Chris,” she said, by keeping his work day interesting and providing the chance to learn new skills.
“ARC brings a sense of normalcy,” Susie added, fighting back tears. “Interacting with others in a supportive environment is really important to Chris and enables him to grow.”
“Not to sound dramatic, but without ARC I really think he’d regress.”
Eight-year-old Sade’s smile is something to see. She positively beams, and is the happiest person imaginable while in the pool or on the swings during her overnight summer stays at Camp Baker.
Sade’s parents Clarissa and Bill believe summer camp is therapeutic, giving their daughter a chance to rest, unwind, and explore. It also fosters independence, and an opportunity for Sade to socialize. When she comes home, she is a little more confident.
Camp Baker also gives them a chance to unwind, as well, and spend time with their four-year-old twins. Mom Clarissa admits it was initially hard to find a place that met Sade’s needs, which includes bathing and dressing assistance, but at Camp Baker, “they look after her properly; you can trust them.”
With their extended family overseas, Clarissa and Bill also like the camp’s international atmosphere, with a staff of trained counselors, some from abroad. Their first visit, they saw bunks decorated with flags from each counselor’s home country, and observed that in the diverse “multilingual, multicultural” environment, all the staff were united in providing each camper with the best care possible.
Finding a place so ideal for Sade has been an obvious blessing.
“The stars were aligned,” said Bill.
Even if Tyler, 19, has a bad day at school, it will be a good day at ARC, says his mom Bonnie.
“His eyes are bright and shining” after spending afternoons there. Tyler especially likes woodworking, and recently brought home a box for Bonnie, saying, “This is the first thing I’ve ever made for you.”
Tyler also stayed for a week last summer at Camp Baker, and his mom said it was so much fun he didn’t want to leave. “He loves the whole program.”
“I know he’s safe at ARC, “she continued. “I don’t have to worry when I’m working, ‘Is he going to set the house on fire?’ ‘’
Before, Tyler would come home and “sit around the house. ARC brightened him up a lot.”