Inclusion is Part of the Magic

by Amanda Ferguson

When I emailed HSJ Camp Director, Jonathan “J.C” Cohen, and asked if Jacobs camp ever worked with families of special needs kids, I was prepared to be told no and directed to a program geared towards kids with autism. I was thrilled when I was told they would like to meet Teddy and see what could be done to meet his needs at Jacobs. Since I, my brothers, and my sister grew up at Jacobs camp, and many a niece and nephew had attended Jacobs, it meant the world to me and my husband that Teddy was being given this opportunity for inclusion into the Jacobs magic.

That first summer was a bit rocky, as the camp staff got to know Ted and he learned to be comfortable in a new environment, but the patience and dedication of the amazing counselors and staff, along with a true commitment to the inclusion of this one kid made for a successful summer and we have sent Teddy back for the last 5 summers. We have watched him grow, become independent and self confident, make friends  (which is not so easy for a kid on the autism spectrum), overcome obstacles, and set and achieve goals each summer.

The first week back from camp Teddy was busy entering contacts into his ipad, emailing and face timing with camp friends, and telling us all about his adventures. He developed a friendship with his older cousin this summer, and in turn he became close with her friends. As he was telling us about this group of girls he had become close to, he said something that embodied everything we love about Jacobs and the whole reason we wanted him to go. He said “I am so happy now because I have my family I love at home, but with my counselors, my cousin and my friends I also have made my own camp family and I love them just as much!” THAT is what the Jacobs magic is all about!!

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