Hill Family

Hill Family
Meet Hill Family

“Ryan is 22 years old, transitioning out of school this month, and Jill’s House been part of our family since he was about 10 years old. Wow, that is 12 years! Ryan has grown up so much in those years.”

“I first heard about Jill’s House at a monthly meeting for Parents of Autistic Children of Northern Virginia (POAC-NoVA). At that time, we would meet as a group every month and different speakers would join us to teach on different topics. A woman from Jill’s House came to speak to us and shared about this new respite facility opening. Honestly, respite sounded wonderful, but seemed too good to be true!” 

“I remember those years when Ryan was younger. He was much more of a challenge! Ryan was initially given a diagnosis around 3 years old and around that time we began early interventions. He was quite a challenge in those early years. He had issues with elopement, aggression, and behavior issues.”

“As he grew older, he became a very picky eater, he was resistant to changes in his schedule, and transitioning from a preferred activity to non-preferred activity was very hard. We had been receiving educational services, and we enrolled Ryan in adaptive Tae Kwon Do and Boy Scouts for kids with special needs, but we continued to have so many challenges with him.”

“After hearing about Jill’s House, we decided to process our paperwork, but it was still so hard to imagine leaving him for a weekend. Our family has always lived so far away, and we had never considered leaving Ryan overnight with a friend or babysitter. The staff at Jill’s House were so kind, reassuring, professional, and responsive. I cannot over emphasize enough how wonderful it was for us to have Jill’s House at that time! When it was time for Ryan to stay overnight, we were comfortable leaving him and knew that he was going to be loved and cared for. We were convinced that Ryan would be safe.”

“Ryan’s first stay at Jill’s House was in July 2011. Jill’s House had just opened the previous October.”


“Ryan loved going to Jill’s House from the start! I still remember that first time he stayed there. At the end of Ryan’s stay we were given a photo of Ryan playing in the pool. He had this enormous smile on his face, and he looked so happy! This photo of my son playing and having fun was Jill’s House’s way of helping our child say, “Look how much fun I had while staying at Jill’s House!!”.”

“We have so much faith in Jill’s House!”

“Ryan still enjoys staying at Jill’s House even at 22 years old. When he was younger, he was really excited about playing in the pool and watching movies. Now as a young man, he still enjoys those activities, but he also enjoys hanging out in Tech trails and watching YouTube videos or chatting with staff.”

“Ryan has been a student with the Fairfax County Davis Career Center and has had multiple job placements to build his vocational skills. Some of his previous placements have been data entry, filing, and mail delivery, and he has been placed at Jill’s House since September 2021 as Front Desk Receptionist. He loves working at Jill’s House!”

“Ryan will be aging out of the school system in June and will be attending PREP (Pre-Employment Readiness and Education Program), a 6-week program at Wilson Workforce Rehabilitation Center. This program focuses on employment readiness and independent living skills. We are excited about the next step for Ryan, though we are all a little nervous about some of the unknowns.”

“When Ryan returns in July, we hope to resume in-home support services offered through Jill’s House. Ryan will probably also pursue additional vocational training. Ryan also the big idea to return to Jill’s House as a volunteer! At first, we were wondering if it was a good idea since we don’t live very close and we weren’t sure how he would manage on public transportation. But he is super committed to Jill’s House, so we just can’t say no!”

“We have been so grateful for Jill’s House, the young man they have helped our son become, and for everything the staff and volunteers have done for our family.”

Thank you for making stories like Ryan's possible.

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Awlaki Family

Awlaki Family

Meet Awlaki Family

“I (Senait) came to the US from Egypt in 1992, I met my husband in 1996 and we married in 1997. We have three beautiful daughters and Muna is our middle child!

Muna was around 21 months old when I started noticing that she couldn’t make eye contact and wasn’t responding to her name. We took her to see her doctor, but he didn’t take our concerns seriously. I insisted that something was not right, and we were referred to a neurologist at Washington Hospital. We wanted answers right away but were forced to wait for some time to get an appointment. When we finally saw the doctor, he watched her walk around and play with toys, but he wanted to wait until she was 3 years old to fully evaluate and diagnose her. However, he did say that he thought Muna might have Autism.”

“Autism? We didn’t even know what Autism was!”

“The doctor recommended books for us to read, and I read all of them! In just about every book I was reading I could see Muna. I began to process what she was going to face for the rest of her life.”

“Around this time, we were living in Alexandria, Virginia. Muna was receiving in-home speech therapy and occupational therapy, but we really wanted her to be a part of school and a program for children with Autism. We heard that Fairfax County offered a program for children with Autism so we decided to move into Fairfax County, and placed her in school and an ABA program. Muna has been in school since she was almost 3 years old. She is now almost 22 years old and will graduate this year!”
“Muna is a wonderful girl, but between the ages of 7-9 years old she became very aggressive especially with her older sister. She was also not sleeping at night. She would wake up at night, turn on all the lights and would be extremely active. It was such a difficult time for our family! While at school she was not learning skills to communicate, and we didn’t notice any changes in her behavior. I became a de facto ABA provider for Muna to help her learn skills while at home, but I had to fight very hard for Muna at school. I have always worked so hard for her!”

“Then I heard about Jill’s House!”

“Jill’s House hadn’t opened yet, but I read a flyer describing Jill’s House and how they would serve kids with intellectual disabilities. Muna had never been to someone else’s house before, and this was going to be place where she could go. I was so happy!”
“Muna has been going to Jill’s House for so many years! She is so terrified of going into new buildings, but she loves Jill’s House so much. She will open the car door when we arrive! She loves the pool, the art room. Everything!”
“When Muna turned 18 years old, we were sad because she was about to age out of the Weekend Program at Jill’s House. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find anything for her, but my husband kept reassuring me that we would find something. Then we received an email from Jill’s House explaining that the Weeknight Program was going to be extended in partnership with Muna’s school, and she could continue through 21 years old. We were so happy!! It was a relief for us, but this news was wonderful for her. She loves Jill’s House so much! Everything there is covered in love, and her reaction to hearing anyone say Jill’s House is complete joy!”
“Muna always has the biggest smile, and she has settled down a little. She loves to help in the kitchen making waffles, and she loves walking in our neighborhood. After Muna graduates from school and Jill’s House, we will spend time finding a day program for her. It will take time, but we need to make sure we find the right place for her.”

“I wish Jill’s House could be available for Muna forever.”

“Muna makes us smile and laugh more than anyone. We have so much love for her! I believe that Muna has shown our family how to care and love for one another. She is such a blessing.”

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Amicone Family

Amicone Family
Meet Amicone Family

“Our son Dominic, Dom, is 13 years old. Like other teenagers, he is beginning to grow some facial hair, and he enjoys holding a phone so he can listen to music. We help him show off his personality through funky haircuts, fun socks, and cool outfits. Dom is non-verbal so he won’t respond, but we know that as he gets older, he appreciates being able to fit in more with his peers.”

“When I was pregnant, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding how Dom was developing. We were sent for genetic testing, and later connected with a special team of doctors. Our geneticist shared that Dom had Mosaic Trisomy 6, which is a rare chromosomal disorder, and microcephaly which meant that his head was developing smaller. We continued to meet with doctors for the remainder of the pregnancy. “
“From that point on, we had an ultrasound every week. We continued to hear a strong heartbeat and see his movement. He was alive, but the doctors couldn’t explain his progress. We weren’t very religious at the time and we had always thought science could explain anything. But since science couldn’t explain our child we began to believe that there must be a God. From that moment, we decided to pray without ceasing for our unborn child!”

When Dom was born, we were so excited!
He was perfect, small, and adorable.

“When Dom was 9 months old, he couldn’t sit up or roll over and those delays continued to develop as he grew in age. Medical resources are limited for parents with children with special needs, so as he grew, we saw many different doctors. When he was 8 years old, he had a grand mal seizure and was placed on a new medication, which brought on other side-effects.

Many years later, we feel that he is now receiving better care, his medications are managed, and he can be the 13-year-old he is meant to be. And that is what Jill’s House does for him! While Dom is at camp, he can be the 13-year-old he is meant to be.”
“Before Jill’s House camp started in Nashville, we participated in several family meetings. We remember those meetings so well! We were excited, but each child has different needs and not all programs are suitable for all kids with a variety of special needs. We worried about him staying overnight because it would be his first time out of his element, and we didn’t know how he would respond to this new experience.”

“Finally, his first camp weekend arrived and we were a wreck. We showed up and they greeted us on our first day with a binder including everything necessary for his support and care for the weekend.

When the weekend was over the camp staff returned all his belongings to us labeled and in order. We were put at ease, and we knew this was the right place for him.  “

“The second time we enrolled Dom in camp we decided to take our older daughter away for the weekend to an amusement park. The time away with our daughter was amazing, and like nothing we had ever been able to do before.”
“Once everything shut down because of COVID, we weren’t sure if camp would return. We were grateful for that season when Dom could participate, especially during his preteen years, but we didn’t know what things would look like in the future. Now that camp has started back up, he knows what to expect and is excited to go. He’s not excited in a way that he is able to tell us, but we know he is excited and ready because he willingly walks away from us and toward the camp staff and volunteers.”

“Jill’s House has helped Dom develop his life-skills. We know that through Dom’s success at camp he is working toward living a somewhat independent life as he grows older. We are also grateful for everyone who serves at camp. They choose to be a part of my sons’ life! We admire them and are just so grateful for the compassion in their hearts for families like ours. It is humbling that Jill’s House is so willing to love and welcome our family.”
“God is leading and growing us all through Dom! We are witnessing God’s image here on earth in our son! Dom has pure joy and loves everyone around him, and we also know that others around him are interested in the joy that Dom has.

Since Dom has been attending Jill’s House Weekend Adventure camp, we have gained confidence as a family. We feel so blessed by our community and the support we have for one another! We feel this is exactly where God wants us to be.”

Thank you for making stories like Amicone Family possible.

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Sorell Family

Sorell Family

Meet Sorell Family

“Our family is originally from Kansas, but the Army moved us to the greater Washington DC area almost 11 years ago. The military has allowed us to stabilize in DC because of our son Jacob. With all the medical and academic services available we passionately believe God sovereignly led us here!” 

“Jacob is a sweet, joyful nine-year-old little boy who is nonverbal and non-ambulatory. As an infant, it was not until he started missing milestones such as rolling over or sitting up that we realized something was not right developmentally and our family began to have lot of concerns. At approximately 14 months old, Jacob began having infantile spasms which causes catastrophic brain damage and developmental regression. By God’s grace the seizures cease. Jacob continues to thrive though he is intellectually and physically disabled with no confirmed genetic diagnosis.”

“Our family initially heard about Jill’s House around the time Jacob was going into kindergarten. He was placed on a brief waiting list until there was an opening. The first time we left Jacob at the Jill’s House, I was quite anxious to leave him because we had never left him overnight with anyone before. As an overprotective mom, I felt guilty and overly responsible wondering how other people would understand Jacob’s nonverbal cues or methods of communication. Now every time he goes to Jill’s House, Jacob’s body language and huge smiles show us he is so happy! Jacob proudly uses his gait trainer to walk inside the entrance while holding his head up grinning ear to ear like he owns the place!

Jacob has 2 older sisters who love and adore him. Both Leah and Lily are amazing sisters with friends who are inclusive of Jacob. Both of our girls have been wonderful helpers, and huge advocates for their beautiful brother. At times it has been stressful on each one of us because disability impacts the whole family.”

“One of our first experiences at Jill’s House was a family retreat at a calm outdoor venue. We will never forget that weekend the spring of 2019. Our girls were encouraged meeting other typical siblings and were able to converse and interact during their free time. Our whole family was so blessed to spend time with other special needs parents and have a caretaker assigned to help us with Jacob. One of the biggest highlights was being able to eat a meal uninterrupted as a family. Mealtimes are one of the hardest times during a typical day with a special needs child who continues to chronologically grow but needs to be fed in a comparable way an infant is.

While Jacob is at Jill’s House, we try to be intentional with our girls and do at least one thing we might not be able to do as easily with Jacob. For example, we go on a bike ride or go out to eat at our favorite Korean restaurant. Jacob’s time at Jill’s House is not just a respite for us, it also gives him an opportunity to be around others to stimulate his mind. We always receive notes from his time at Jill’s House saying that he either enjoyed playing instruments in the music room, exploring the sensory room, or throwing balls in the gym.”

“When you have a child with special needs, a caretaker or family member remains on high alert during the day or night. Circumstances keep your adrenaline up as thoughts preoccupy your mind constantly such as, “will my child have a seizure?” “Will my child fall out of bed?” “Will they need a diaper change?” The first night Jacob is at Jill’s House is always the hardest to fall sleep as we contemplate if we will get an emergency call to come get him. But when we do not hear the phone ring, our minds and bodies are finally able to relax… the second night we usually fall into a deeper sleep. Chronic exhaustion and burn out is a common theme among special needs families.

Before COVID we would attend Worship Night at Jill’s House as a family. These nights were so special. Kids would get banners or flags to wave during the music and we never had to worry about how much noise they were making. Watching and listening to all the children make a joyful noise until the Lord was so beautiful.”

“We are so grateful for Jacob. His heart is so pure! When we are playing worship music at home, often he will lift up his hands or tap on our chest as a gesture that he wants us to lift our hands in worship too!! Although he is intellectually 4–10-month-old mentally and even though his body is disabled, he is such a beautiful representation of purity. Jacob physically cannot feel pain or cry we discovered after neurologically testing. In a way, all these attributes combine remind us of what it will be like in heaven when there will be no pain, no crying, just pure JOY! Due to Jacob’s limited intellectual ability, it makes us think of the verse where it says, ‘the pure in heart shall see GOD.”

“This winter, we were able to enjoy a marriage retreat with a few Jill’s House couples. What a refreshing blessing. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary and with a special needs child it is so hard to get away to honor our vows. In addition to periodic retreats, having a small women’s Bible study on zoom has been a huge source of strength and encouragement especially during the pandemic when most of us were isolated at home not even able to go into a church building with our children.

We are so grateful for the way the Jill’s House not only cares for our special needs kids, this community abundantly blesses and nurtures the whole family throughout our journey.”

Thank you for making stories like Sorell Family possible.

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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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