A special thanks!
A Camp Anchor Summer
The summer is a fun time for kids especially when they have a place to go, things to do and friends to meet. We have always saw the value in enrolling our son in a summer camp program for special needs children. For several years we were lucky enough to send our son to Camp Kehilla which is affiliated with the Sid Jacobson JCC where we saw our son blossom and make progress in his 5 years attending day camp there. Eventually it became too expensive for us to afford and we were not eligible for financial assistance so we had to find an alternative last summer. It was very difficult explaining this to our son and I felt such guilt to take this fun experience away from him. It really tore me up inside as we always want to do all we possibly can for our children. That summer we could not send him to the day camp but we were fortunate that the school district had an opening for our son in the summer school program where he continued his education and had some fun outings with his fellow class mates. He enjoyed the experience and was able to learn and make progress. He missed the camp experience but he was fine with the summer school program.
This school year was quite difficult for our son because he was placed on permanent suspension due to behaviors he apparently had no control over due to his condition of autism. He had several melt downs in the class room and the teachers and staff had a hard time controlling him. He is considered very intelligent and the school felt this decision to suspend him for good was a very hard one to make because they like Matty and felt he is very capable but was not able to conform in the class room to stay in school. He was out of school for almost 4 months and it was very difficult for him and for us. We were hoping he would be back in school in a shorter time frame but as each month passed we started to wonder when he would be placed in an appropriate school setting where he could get the much needed attention and have a level of comfort with his teachers, his class mates and the school environment.
As we faced this dilemma with our son's situation we tried to be optimistic and rely on the help and support of his school district to help place him. We had school teachers come to the house arranged by the school to instruct him for 2 hours a day. He missed being in a classroom with other kids. So when he was approved for his current school he was happy to be back and we knew he would try his best to listen, behave and get along with his fellow class mates. He started the new school in April after being out since December of the previous year so it felt like he was starting a new school year. He managed to make progress and his teacher indicated that he was adjusting well and seemed happy being back in a school environment and was very attentive. We realize that he is trying his best and he knows how important it is to listen to his teacher and to show respect for all of his teachers, his class mates and all in the school. He also realizes how important it is to do his school work and to be very responsible with his home work assignments.
We were also concerned in finding an appropriate program for him in the summertime. We had applied to the Camp Anchor program several years ago at the suggestion of Rebecca, our school appointed counselor who visits with us twice a month. We would have loved the opportunity to send him to Camp Anchor but the waiting list was very long and it seemed that a chance for him to attend would not be possible until he was 15 or 16 years old which is 3-4 years from now. At the suggestion of my sister who sent Senator Charles Fuschillo a message on facebook on behalf of our son due to his recent school situation she set in motion a campaign to help our son be placed for the summer in a wonderful camp program which was not our original intention. I tried to make contact with his office to see if we could find assistance in placing him in an appropriate school. I was invited by him to contact Senator Kemp Hannon's office where I explained the situation with his secretary, Marie and she asked me what they could do for us. I spoke to her about how we wanted to find a suitable school for our son and also to send him to day camp because the camp program we were sending him to was too expensive and the Camp Anchor program seemed to be a dream because of the long wait. She said she would see what she could do and would take it up with Senator Hannon. She promised me she would call me back. After a week I received a call from her as she promised and she indicated she was in touch with officials at Camp Anchor and was working to help place our son for this year's summer program. I was very excited and thanked her for all of her efforts.
Our son is 12 years old and he is a wonderful kid with a kind and caring heart. He is very empathetic to other children and is very sensitive to things around him. We always have to be understanding and to help him when he has difficult moments or extreme melt downs. They are getting less frequent as he gets older but he still has these episodes and he sometimes is not able to control himself. It is similar to when he has a seizure which has also been less frequent on account of his medication. We believe when he is occupied and having a fun time that things seem to fall into place for him and he finds his way and is able to get along with the other children and participate in the group activities. We feel that when he is in a camp setting he is certainly enjoying himself and is participating in fun activities with the other kids under the supervision and watchful eyes of the many dedicated and caring counselors who take great pride in what they do.
Our son was still on suspension from school and it was March when I heard from Marie as she called with great news. She indicated that Senator Kemp Hannon and Hempstead Town Supervisor, Kate Murray were able to get our son placed in the Camp Anchor summer program which was wonderful news to us. We were still working on getting him placed in a school but were delighted that he had a wonderful camp program to look forward to. I thanked her and told her to thank both Senator Kemp Hannon and Town Supervisor Kate Murray for all their help on our behalf. It was official when we received letters from both the Senator's office and Kate Murray's office. We were overjoyed and could not contain our emotions as I started to cry because of all my pent up feelings and realizing that there are people out there who do care and even busy politicians will find the time to help a special needs child be placed in a summer camp program which is subsidized. This really taught me about how when you feel at an all time low how your spirits can be picked up by the special actions and kind deeds of others.
I write this in anticipation of my son starting camp this summer at Camp Anchor and to express our thanks to my sister, Senator Charles Fuschillo, Senator Kemp Hannon, Marie and Town Supervisor Kate Murray. They really helped us and made it possible for our son to attend this much sought after program. Words can not express my true feelings of offering thanks and appreciation but I will try to convey it as best I can in my own words because they are helping our son and in their letters I felt their sincerity and their true desire to help place our son. We were very lucky that we sought their assistance and they really came through for us. We are so very grateful for all their efforts and hard work in helping to bring a smile to our son's face and peace of mind for us and I hope that there are other children and needy families provided the same opportunity that our son and our family has been given.
We will always be grateful to them and to Camp Anchor and all their staff for making it possible. We will gladly make a donation to their wonderful program and we look forward to our son attending the highly anticipated Camp Anchor summer program this summer. Camp Anchor relies on the generous support of donors in running its programs aimed in helping special needs children. If you wish to help support this wonderful program please check out how you can on the link included. You will be making it possible to help a child feel loved and be given an opportunity of a lifetime. There are so many dedicated and caring people who make this wonderful experience a reality for so many special needs children. The counselors donate their time and develop special bonds with these children helping them, teaching them, protecting them and guiding them and it truly is very special.
We also wish at this time to extend our condolences to the 3 special and very dedicated camp counselors who perished in a tragic car accident en route to the camp last summer and to their families and to the Camp Anchor family who is still dealing with this sad tragedy. May this summer bring comfort to all and ease the pain that is felt in their absence.
Edward D. Iannielli III