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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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 © 2018 Jill’s House

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

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 © 2018 Jill’s House