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Cullen Family

January 29  |  3 minute read

We adopted our son Jacob when he was three months old, and it wasn’t until he was 8 months old that we realized that he was totally deaf! This was quite a shock, but we worked really hard to get him hearing as quickly as we could through the miracle of cochlear implants. As he has gotten older, we have found he’s like a little onion with many layers and many surprises! He has subsequently been diagnosed with an intellectual disability, ADHD, he also has some autistic tendencies, and he may have fetal alcohol syndrome, which is where some of these disabilities may stem from.

Jacob loves to be with people and is very engaging with them, so it’s no surprise that everyone at camp is crazy about him! As they say, he feels joy from the top of his head to the tips of his toes! Jacob knows he entertains people and he thrives on that feedback. People are excited to see him and Jill’s House is a great place for him—there he can just be a kid and be loved on. 

Our family is a huge fan of Jill’s House! Jacob has been attending the Nashville camp from the very beginning. We truly watched Camp Rocky Top take off! Jacob has gotten the full camp experience there: horses, a zipline, archery, and lots of outdoor activities—and depending on weather, water activities. We first heard about it from our church and quickly became fast friends with the camp director—she and I totally clicked. 

Now she’s a very close family friend and comes over about once a week because she adores Jacob. We have also found a great sitter for Jacob from Jill’s House, which is a huge blessing because sitters for special needs kids are hard to find. It is a testimony to the rich relationships we have made through Jill’s House!

They do a great job finding volunteers that have a heart for the kids they serve. It is a sweet thing and I am so blessed by it. There’s so much Jill’s House fills our life with besides the services offered relationships like that are at the very top of the list. We usually have a good amount of support as we care for Jacob because we have to have that support. My older kids are busy and active, and it’s not always easy to take Jacob to
their events and sporting activities. My husband and I strive to make family life normal as much as possible for them, and that requires getting help. With our older kids, we only have a short amount of time with them before they graduate, so I want to be able to experience life with them while I can. 

Respite weekends are a great way for us to spend quality time with them doing things we ordinarily wouldn’t be able to do. When Jacob is at Jill’s House, I do not worry one bit because I know they love him so well. We receive good reports about Jacob after his weekend stays, and I believe it is because the volunteers and  staff look at him with such loving and compssionate eyes. As I have learned, you always find what you are  looking for, and when you look for the good you see it. When you look for the bad you see that, too. Jill’s  House looks at Jacob with love and they see the good and fun and uniqueness in him.That is priceless. 

Speaking of which, COVID has been really challenging for our family. Through the  relationships we have made with Jill’s House we were able to find help we desperately needed while camp  was closed. I always tell other special needs families that until you’ve experienced respite, you don’t know how bad you need it. I always tout Jill’s House to other families because I wholeheartedly believe in their mission and the value they provide families. We all need a break every now and then and I believe Jill’s House camps allow me to get fresh patience, a new perspective, and REST. After COVID, I know how much I love Jill’s House, and that time away from Jill’s House renewed our appreciation for what they do. We rely on Jill’s House for our sanity and it is always something we look forward to. This journey with Jacob is, for us, a marathon, not a sprint. 

We’ll be doing this the rest of our lives. To know that there will be opportunities to have a break helps me carry on. Jill’s House helps us be the best version of ourselves in this situation we have been placed in. I come back refreshed with the mindset that: “Okay, we can do this another day. We can do this another week.”
When I think about thanking the people who have helped make Jill’s House what it is, I am overcome with tears and gratitude. I can put on a brave face and talk about my faith that sustains me (which is true), but it’s also true that Jacob’s needs are exhausting and we need the help.

Jill’s House helps us in more ways than just respite, and for that I am so thankful.

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 © 2018 Jill’s House

Enjoy this story? Share it with your friends or read more like it!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
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Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

 © 2018 Jill’s House