We'd love to have him by Rebecca Shearer
Friday, April 7, 2017 at 9:25AM
ymcawo in Camp Queen Elizabeth

For so many years my heart broke as a parent of a child with Special Needs.

It broke because Max's main goal in life was simple, it was pure, it was to have a friend. Every person he saw, he would ask, "Are you my friend?" Because of this lack of connection, Max had never had a typical birthday party, he'd never had a sleepover, he'd never FaceTimed a friend.

After a very trying year that destroyed our family and ended with Max spending time in residential care at CPRI (Child and Parent Resource Institute), we saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Max was coming home and he was happy. I knew I needed to continue Max's new found path towards independence and happiness.

That's where summer camp came in.

I convinced myself to let go of the reins and allow someone else to watch over my child. Yes, this is hard to do with a "typical" child, but it's nearly impossible with a child who shapes every minute of every day.

I began searching for a summer camp that offered one-on-one services. Max needed structure and someone who could think on their feet. But what he really needed, still, was a friend.

After 14 calls to camps around the region, what seemed like thousands of emails and a lot of declines, Camp Queen Elizabeth said, "We'd love to have him."

I cried. Someone had finally said yes, they would help and be happy to do it.

When Max got his first FaceTime request from his "friend", Ben, who was at camp waiting for him to arrive, he was thrilled. He was so happy to see and talk to someone who was waiting to be his friend. He went to bed smiling and I went to bed crying, with joy.

Max went to CQE for the very first time last August. He left on the bus without looking back and I spent the entire week uninterrupted with my youngest daughter. Did I think about Max? Oh course! Did we survive the week without him? Yes. And the first thing Max said to me when he got home from camp was, "Can I go again next year?"

CQE allowed my young boy to make friends on his own without his Mom watching over him. CQE protected, guided and encouraged my boy to be the best he could be.

But their support went beyond Max, extending to our whole family. It gave me peace of mind, allowing me to pay some much-needed attention to my little girl and my husband. In that one week, I slept well, breathed deeper, closed my eyes and was truly grateful.

We can't wait till this year!

Article originally appeared on YMCA of Western Ontario (http://ymcawo.ca/).
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