Andreozzi Family

Andreozzi Family

November  |  3 minute read

We learned of Jill’s House from friends. We started the application process in early 2020 and were so excited to send Quinn that summer. Unfortunately the pandemic changed all that. However, we were able to meet with a staff member at a local park, have questions answered and get MORE excited for our son to go the following year. 

Quinn was finally able to go to the Blue Ridge Camp in July 2021. Coincidentally, our daughter had her first sleepover camp experience this summer as well. In anticipation, we visited her camp during spring break and Blue Ridge camp a couple of weeks later.

The Blue Ridge staff was fantastic and gave us a thorough tour. I really appreciated that we could talk through all the first time camp jitters as a family and know they were both going to have unique experiences. After my daughter went to her June camp, Quinn kept asking about when he got to go to his camp . He was so excited!!!

Finally the day arrived. Drop off went smoothly that Friday night. We were thankful we had seen everything in the spring, since it was a strict stay in the car drop off experience. He was so enthusiastic and we barely had time for a drop off photo, as he raced into the lodge. The following morning, we got a text from a staff member with a quick update on his evening. It warmed our heart to know he was having such a life changing experience independent of us.

Quinn is not able to communicate what he did during those 3 nights and 2 days. When we picked him up, he was happy to see us and on the the ride home, we asked if he wanted to go back he said “YES”.

Unfortunately, Quinn broke his leg August 1 at our house a few weeks after his return. We got a call about a last minute cancellation a few days later and it broke our heart to turn it down. But we know that when he is back to 100%, he is going to love celebrating his recovered health and his independent spirit at Blue Ridge again!

Thank you so much for giving Quinn the opportunity to experience the adventure and independence of camp!

Thank you for making stories like the Andreozzi’s possible.

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Fritz Family

Fritz Family

January 29  |  3 minute read

We have lived in Illinois our whole lives and are a family of five—Ryan has two other sisters, both older than him. We are fortunate to have a very large extended family as well who have been in farming the last 100 years!

Ryan is 14 years old and was born with Down Syndrome with an Autism diagnosis and is nonverbal. Ryan is a very smart, energetic boy! We are older parents, but Ryan keeps us young! He has been in numerous plays with the Lincolnway special recreation center in our town– one year he played the Grinch! He loves to be active and to interact with other children. For that reason, he has loved learning archery at Camp Windy City. In general, he is a really fast learner—for instance, he picked up on sign language quite quickly about two years ago and now signs really well! Once we became aware of Camp Windy City, the first thing Ryan did was learn the sign for ‘camp’ and the sign for ‘friend’.”

“During the pandemic, we’ve spent a lot more time on the computer, researching opportunities that we’ve been lacking during this isolating past year. I was googling different camps in the area, and Jill’s House Windy City popped up! Immediately I thought, “Wow! This is really something we would be interested in!” From there we started the application process. I think it’s really wonderful that the Jill’s House staff takes the time to get to know each family. Our Local Program Manager met us in a park and got to know both Ryan and our family dynamic. That meant so much to us because there are so many other camps out there where no one there has ever met your child. Jill’s House does a great job with this—I would never leave my child with just anyone, so to spend good time being known by the Windy City staff and to likewise get to know the program has been just terrific.”

“Ryan attended his first Windy City camp this past month! He loves routine, so we put the camp date on his calendar for him to anticipate and to look forward to. This was a brand-new experience for Ryan, but he was so excited for it. At the end of camp, he signed “great day” and “happy time”, and has already written “camp” on his calendar for his next Windy City weekend!

Kids with special needs really do not get invited to sleepovers or birthday parties—that has rarely ever happened in Ryan’s life. To be 14-years-old and to finally be with your peers is a natural and joyful thing that he’s finally gotten to experience. As a parent, it means so much to get to see my son experience that.

Besides Ryan’s uncles caring for him for a few hours here and there, Bob and I are with him 24/7! The fact that Jill’s House provides overnight care is such a wonderful thing—an opportunity we don’t get any other time as special needs parents. Parents like us don’t have the free time that other parents do. We don’t ever see the possibility or reality of an empty nest, something a lot of parents have to look forward to. As a special needs mom, my struggle every day is real. There is never a sense of truly relaxing. It is hard to take time for myself, and to trust that Ryan is safe.”

“For us, the opportunity to finally get rest is the most important thing. Jill’s House is there to give us the freedom that we don’t get otherwise—to have a couple days of freedom is really difficult for us to come by. We appreciate the opportunity to have a break—it goes a long ways for us.”

“Besides the general opportunity Jill’s House gives us, from start to finish there is such an attention to detail and to full care that we are so thankful for. When we arrive, the staff and nurses come out to the car to greet you. The follow-up afterward is great—there is a whole sheet about what he did at camp, as well as what could happen to make his next stay even better. Their goal is to make this weekend time special for Ryan.

Ryan has taught us so much. We’ve learned patience and flexibility, but also have learned how to love everyone, no matter what. We are blessed to have him. When you give to Jill’s House, you are providing that exceptional level of care for our precious Ryan and for our whole family. Thank you!

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Hart Family

Hart Family

January 29  |  3 minute read

Our older children range in age from 32-18, and after them comes our son, Peter, who is 11! Peter has Down syndrome, and once we learned all about the joys of Down syndrome, as well as the need for international adoption of children with disabilities; we became interested in pursuing that option as well. Here in the United States, there is a waiting list to adopt children with Down syndrome, but in other countries those children are often institutionalized. In Russia, at that time, children with Down syndrome were often sent to a psychiatric institution after the age of 5 or 6. That reality tore at our hearts. On top of that, Peter is much younger than his siblings, plus making friends requires lots of support, so we could see the value of a special inter-family friendship. It was a process that we started hesitatingly and prayerfully. Our agency happened to have a strong connection to China, so we eventually met our son Stephen through an assortment of little pictures and finally brought him home in 2014, which means he has been a part of our family nearly 7 years!

Peter and Stephen have grown up together! Stephen, who just turned 10, teaches Peter to be gentler, and Peter teaches Stephen to be more adventurous. Like Peter, Stephen has Down syndrome, and he has autism as well. He is almost completely non-verbal, although he can make noises to mean “Home” and “Mama”… we’re working on one for “Papa”, too!

When we adopted Stephen, we didn’t know his full range of disabilities, which we’ve definitely had to adapt to. However, God works in mysterious ways, and it has been a wonderful thing for both boys. While there are sometimes challenges, Peter and Stephen are such special blessings who bring much joy to our family.

The boys are little buddies, always playing together, inside and out. They are very different but have a lot of the same interests—which means they LOVE going to Jill’s House Blue Ridge Camp together! They’ve always gone together, which they really prefer. Their friendship is very sweet, which has been so important for each of them to have during the pandemic. We cannot even imagine what it would have been like for them to be on their own during this time.

On the flip side, our hands are full! We are so fortunate that Peter & Stephen have some older siblings to come in and out and help us, and of course we have Jill’s House as a huge help, too! But yes, as you can imagine, we fall asleep quickly at night!

The change that came with school when the pandemic hit was something huge to adapt to—it was a big challenge to supervise everything constantly. Zoom was hard for Peter and Stephen when everything first shut down. It was hard to keep sufficient structure initially, which is key for our sons.

The boys were planning on going to Blue Ridge Camp on March 13th 2020, the weekend that everything shut down! That was such a big heartbreak for us, that the world shut down on that particular weekend. That morning we had the boys’ bags packed and we thought that time at camp would be how they spent their weekend. We are SO glad to say that we have been able to come to Jill’s House Blue Ridge Camp since it reopened, which has been a joyful highlight for both the boys and for us.

Because he is nonverbal, Stephen has a speaking device. On it, he has a page of places, and we had to add Jill’s House Camp because he really wants to say it! When Stephen sees the Jill’s House logo, or wants to count down the days—because we do count down the days until time at Jill’s House! —he uses his speaking device to communicate his excitement and anticipation.

There are reports that come home each time Peter and Stephen have had a stay, and they read: “What we love about Peter” and “What we love about Stevie”—they are just beautiful. They warm a parent’s heart. Based on what these reports say, and what Peter has said, he loves the high swing! He has a very adventurous spirit and loves anything in the outdoors, so Blue Ridge Camp is perfect for him. Stevie loves board games, so he really enjoys playing those with the counselors out at camp, but he also enjoys new things, like hayrides. The counselors give them one-on-one attention and yet guide them to be a part of the group, which is so good for our boys.

Jill’s House is a place that we really have confidence—the staff are familiar with the disabilities that our children have, there is full understanding of the medical needs of our children, and the combination of fun and structure of Jill’s House is amazing. We are very fortunate that our boys are physically capable to go adventure around outside. We were stunned that there was a place that even existed like this, and the glowing recommendation of a friend is what drew us to it initially. She referred to it as “a spa for special needs children”—how accurate!

Jill’s House is such a unique operation. When we have told people in other places about Jill’s House, people who don’t have access to what we do through Jill’s House, they are amazed, because it’s hard to find programs like this. We are so grateful that we have such a wonderful thing—there really is nothing else like it. My husband, Chris, and I don’t have parents who are able to take the boys and care for them, and it’s helpful when an attendant comes to our home, but it is certainly nothing like what Jill’s House frees us up to do, including special events with our older children. It meant so much to our daughter that we drove up to her college to attend a parent’s event, were able to spend the night, and spend the next day with her—things we absolutely could not do without our boys staying overnight at Jill’s House Camp!

Thank you for seeing the beauty of our children. That is what is most touching. We view Jill’s House as faith in action in the most beautiful way—everyone invested in Jill’s House loves and cares for people who are so often on the periphery. Thank you for making this amazing opportunity possible for families like ours, here in Virginia and all around the country.

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Alsup Family

Alsup Family

January 29  |  3 minute read


My 15-year-old son Turner has epilepsy, autism, a variety of intellectual disabilities, and some gut issues. There are daily challenges, but God gave me a sense of humor to survive. In addition to Turner, my husband and I have a 14-year-old daughter (you can imagine how that is!), and my joke is that they have really taken turns being the difficult one! They are our two teenagers at home, with totally different needs. 

My family is very new to Jill’s House Rocky Top. After getting in all the paperwork, Turner was eligible for camp January of 2020…right before COVID hit. There was a small pause in camp, but Turner attended Rocky Top Camp all throughout 2020, and last month it was my turn to experience the care of Jill’s House. The retreat I went on was the first for not only Nashville Jill’s House moms, but any of the Weekend Adventures camps across the country! When I told Turner: “Hey, I am going to Jill’s House this weekend!” he said, “Well when do I get to go to Jill’s House?!” It was a typical teenager moment of “How come? I’m jealous!”

The retreat was a time of feeling so deeply understood. It was such a safe place and offered a time of feeling so known—the similar experiences between moms were crazy. A while back, I realized something was lacking in my social life—I don’t have as many friends who are special needs parents like me. The retreat provided the perfect amount of time to be with other moms, share stories, and encourage one another.

Any mom would choose the needs of their child over their own, and a special needs mom has to choose that in an intense way. It was hard to choose my own self care for an entire weekend—not because I am worried to leave Turner with my husband, as I’m fully confident in his abilities, but because that is a choice I’m so rarely presented with. I felt so rejuvenated and renewed coming back into the day-to-day work of being a special needs mom. Our speaker was excellent! The message for the whole group was so on point for the importance of caring for ourselves.

Another thing about being a special needs mom—there is so much attention to detail required. To have that attention to detail turned back my way and given to me was humbling. From the notes that camp staff will send to me after Turner’s weekend stays, to the chocolate placed by my door each night of the retreat—the extravagant attention to detail in everything Jill’s House does for us makes us feel so loved and cared for and seen. That never happens in my world!

And what a wonderful time to have this retreat—at the very start of the year! Particularly at the end of such a chaotic and stressful year. When everyone was nervous at the start of quarantine, we joked that as special needs parents, we had that down pat! Welcome to our world! We are all too familiar with an isolated life. However, it has proven even more challenging in the last year. There is a feeling of deep hopelessness for parents whose children cannot have a real routine during COVID, to be home 24/7 without any help. I (and certainly all the other mothers) often ask, “Will my child ever have a normal experience in the future? Ever have that reward of schedule and the things they desire?” For this reason alone, this retreat was absolutely wonderful for me, and even more wonderful for those who do not yet have their lives back. COVID makes the need for a retreat such as this even more important—maybe even doubly as important as before.

As someone invested in Jill’s House, you are doing a wonderful thing for a community very much in need. Respite is so hard to find physically as well as spiritually, and I know how much I appreciate Jill’s House, the other moms, and the vulnerability. It is a huge amount of trust. Jill’s House does a terrific job of creating that trust so that you can either share your child with them for a day of camp or open up on a mom’s weekend. The amount of work that Jill’s House puts into it is massive. I have never been on a special needs moms retreat—it was just amazing. Even just a women’s retreat through church cannot compare to how specific this one was. Thank you for meeting the needs of people like me.

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 © 2018 Jill’s House

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Smith Family

Smith Family

January 29  |  3 minute read

“Jessica and I are missionary kids from Southeast Asia and high school sweethearts! After getting married, we spent some time in Alaska—in fact, on our first Sunday at our church there, we announced that Jessica was pregnant! We had lost our firstborn shortly after she was born, so we were very excited about this next pregnancy. Lo and behold, our son Trevor came two weeks early that summer. 24 hours after he was born, he started turning blue, so we were medevaced off the island to a children’s hospital in Seattle. A few days later the doctors found out Trevor had Down syndrome, which was a complete shock to us. No one in our extended family was familiar with Down Syndrome in any way—so not only were we surprised, but we were also unequipped and very much alone.”

Trevor has transformed our life in many ways and has given us a passion for the special needs community. A door opened when we heard whisperings about the Jill’s House Windy City camp. When we found out that was an option, we pursued it, hard. Once it opened, we were at the very first Windy City Camp weekend and have been at almost every camp since!

Respite opportunities are very hard to find—especially in Illinois. There is very little funding for it, especially in Illinois. Children who have special needs carry their own challenges, so that certainly impacts the options for someone to provide respite care. There is no other organization we know of that facilitates nights away like Jill’s House does. Jill’s House is tackling and pioneering a very challenging task, and for that we are very grateful.

“It is a bigger ask to request family to stay with Trevor overnight and he doesn’t have friends that he goes to have sleepovers with. Knowing that we could send him away for a whole weekend, that he would have a total blast, and that we could do something together or take our other kids on special adventures was HUGE. It really is something that he looks forward to in a big way—he is such a huge fan of Jill’s House, and it is a very special privilege to have something so cool that he really loves. He has a great time, every time.

Trevor is very unique—I don’t think we’ve ever met a child with Down syndrome like Trevor. He is very high-functioning, very verbal, very involved in all parts of life, and is very athletic (he loves doing high intensity workouts!). Trevor loves to play his drums, he is deeply loyal to his high school (he is super proud to be a Tiger!), and absolutely loves movies. In fact, at Windy City Camp he will organize the entire Jill’s House staff into all the parts and characters of movies, and then they reenact the entire film, wearing costumes, as Trevor narrates!”

“Besides running camp like he is the prince there; Trevor tells us that his favorite things about camp are ‘his buddy and the s’mores’. The buddy he is paired with each weekend becomes his new best friend for life!

We had a nearly year-long break during the pandemic, but once Camp Windy City opened back up, Trevor was able to go again! He verbally expressed several times how much he missed Windy City Camp during that time.

Another thing that we are so grateful for about Windy City Camp is the staff: they are just fantastic to interact with. They are enthusiastic and professional and joyful all at once. The paperwork they do is proof that they are tracking Trevor so closely: an indicator of how intentional the staff try to be. Jill’s House does everything they can to make each weekend a special weekend.

At home, there is pressure on our other kids to include him, or on me to entertain him. While he is having his own weekend adventure at Windy City, we can all relax. We don’t have the added level of “Well, what’s Trevor going to do? How is he going to engage?” We miss him when he’s gone, we are always ready to have him back, and we love hearing about his fun times at camp, but it is very lovely to just have that brief time of relief from the ongoing stress and tension we feel each day.”

“Churches are often looking to bless families like ours. They have big hearts, they are well-intentioned, but the ways they are typically able to help is not what we truly need at the core. They will do a big Saturday morning activity or show a movie for families affected by disability. But that limited time is not true respite. What our family really needs is a weekend off. That is too hard for a church to pull off without the help of a place like Jill’s House.

That being said, Trevor has gone to a full week-long camp before. He had the time of his life, but he was out of his routine, and we ended up doing damage control at the end of it. For that reason, a weekend is a very reasonable amount of time to entrust others to care for Trevor. Jill’s House is not long enough that things will get overlooked, but long enough that we all get that true respite: Windy City Camp is the perfect amount of time for Trevor and for us.

Unless you have a child with special needs and live the day-to-day underlying stress that that places on a family, and then feel the relief when that is taken away temporarily, I think it would be hard to understand exactly how amazing Jill’s House is for a family like ours. All we can say is a huge thank you to you for making this opportunity possible and accessible for us and for Trevor.”  

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Seyena_Susu Family

Seyena_Susu Family

January 29  |  3 minute read

I am originally from Ghana, and am a single parent caring for Sesi, a child with special needs. As much as it can be challenging to raise any child in a typical household, being single makes it more so, but at the same time can be rewarding. Getting into Jill’s House took a while. The paperwork and the wait list were long processes, but once we were in, the Jill’s House experience was heaven-sent. I say heaven-sent, because they changed the course of our lives. Where there seemed to be no hope, we found solace and gained a family. Jill’s House is like a second family to Sesi and me—and Sesi absolutely loves to come to Jill’s House. You guys are just so open—you fully embrace her! Sesi is an absolute star at Jill’s House! You are friendly and you ensure that Sesi has everything she needs when she comes for a stay. Sesi is encouraged to do new things at Jill’s House: she is always willing to do new things, she just needs a little push. And you all believe in her enough to give her that push! She has grown so much with the experiences from Jill’s House and it lightens my heart just thinking of the HOPE they bring to so many families.

There’s so much to love about the Tyson’s program experience— Sesi loves hearing people play the piano during the chapel services. When she’s not on the playground, she loves singing and dancing. Beyond that, the opportunities the Blue Ridge weekend camp has offered us just blow my mind. Canoeing, kayaking, ziplining—she totally enjoys all of it.

When else would my daughter have the opportunity to try all of that? To be included in activities that others would instead hesitate to encourage her to participate in. Inclusion is big for me and I thank God for a place like this that embraces our abilities and gives us opportunities to experience the joy of life.

I don’t have to worry about her, ever. Like all other parents, on her first night at Jill’s House I was waiting on that phone call to let me know she needed to be picked up. And that call never came! I am given peace of mind that I have no need to worry, and I have never felt such peace of mind about Sesi before. She has so many people looking out for her, and in the best way possible. What else could I ask for?

You look out for not only my daughter, but also for me, too. When my mom died four years ago, and I was in the middle of my grieving process, I went on a moms retreat. The Family Support team made sure I went, because they knew I was mourning and needed that retreat. God took care of me through the conversations and activities that weekend. I could just sit back and listen, use my senses to rediscover the goodness of God even in the midst of my storm. That retreat was another heaven-sent! I went on another two years later, and at that point could really indulge and engage. During Sesi’s stays at Jill’s House, I use my respite time to really enjoy my discarded reading—I never have any time otherwise to read. I have time to clean the home and finally accomplish tasks I’ve been waiting to get done. Otherwise, I will just watch a movie by myself and take naps.

Thank you for creating a place that cherishes Sesi and supports me to breathe again. Your generosity has given me retreats where I can find time to reflect and read and sometimes also do a small act of kindness to others. Your generosity has given Sesi beautiful new opportunities for adventure, joy, and caregiver friends who adore her. I am so thankful to you. God richly bless you and multiply what you give in many different ways. 

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