What a summer! I can’t believe it is almost over. My two week long summer camps were a huge success. One of our participants has NEVER participated in a full day, week long program… and he did both weeks! He started last fall in my two hour a week musical theatre class. Prior to that, he had attended school for a maximum of an hour and a half per day. The funny thing is I would have never known that this was a huge achievement for him as he was so relaxed and positive all week! Luckily, his mom shared her perspective with us, writing a story about how great Semiahmoo House Society and the fine arts programs have been for her son. Take a minute and read her and her son’s story (and she just happens to be a published author!):
“Two Little Miracles Merging Together
Last Friday, I had the delightful experience of sitting with other guests, in the main foyer at Semiahmoo House, as a most amazing group of young adults assembled before us. They were dressed in a mixed array of tangled wigs, glittery bits of costuming, shorts that were crazy-coloured and too small (but definitely set the mood), and even rolls of candy strategically dangling from one young woman’s shoulders and chest. Of course it took only a moment to recognize that she was a very cool rendition of colourful Katy Perry!
My only disappointing moment was in watching their music video for “Poker Face!” Why did I not ever interpret that song that way? Ha, ha…. ‘Poke HER Face’ and there they were, poking the Semiahmoo Gaga’s face! It was just too witty and too funny. I can’t even remember the last time I laughed that hard, not only through that song, but most every song! Everyone was laughing!
But it was definitely not laughing at the performers! It was laughter at just plain feel-good moments, all of them stemming from the love, dedication, respect, and character that just exude from Semiahmoo House! It made me think of the very first time, exactly a year ago, when I first came in to check out this place I’d heard so much about. I’d had my fingers crossed and my heart on hold, praying that this would be a place that could open and expand the life of my special son Brook, though bracing myself that it seemed unlikely, because so very few things had worked that way for him throughout his life.
At the end of the presentation of these fabulous music videos, I wiped away the tears of laughter, and by then of sentiment, and I saw in my mind, the image of Julie Thiele (the Rec and Leisure Director at the time of my first visit). I remember being taken aback by what I saw at Semiahmoo, and saying wonder something like, “Wow, it’s like this is a place where people with disabilities are celebrated! Even the gorgeous wooden structure of the building and the central staircase scream that!”
I remembered her looking back at me, smiling and replying, “That is exactly our mandate.”
Let me get back to ‘my guy,’ the one in the music video and sitting there before us, in the crazy-coloured and too-small shorts! I’ve noticed at Semiahmoo that there is a real blend of participants, each so special and each with their own distinct personality, shape, size, level and nature of challenges and health issues. All of them have had to work hard throughout their lives to become who they are today. And some of them have had far more than their fair share of challenges thrown at them, and their bodies!
Brook is definitely one of them. His body chemistry, his wiring, and his genetic make-up have made his life a really complex challenge – for him, for people working with him, and for his family who love him to pieces, even through the roughest times. But let’s not get too serious! He’s kind of like a highly-trained professional; you know, the ones who have all of their degrees abbreviated in letters that follow their name….Brook has a lot of “letters after his name,” depicting his numerous disorders and challenges.
By the time he was six, we gave up hope of him being able to participate in Summer Programs, even ones well equipped for children with special needs. School was an intense challenge where he could attend only for partial days. It was all just too much for him, especially the impact of being around so many children and staff. By grade 7, even in a low-key Resource Room, the most he could handle was an hour and a half a day.
High School was a nightmare, and he sometimes missed weeks at a time, even when we maintained the brief one and a half hour schedule. Brook is just such a tremendously challenged and complex fellow. And let’s face it: our school system is not equipped to deal with many of our really challenging kids. Finally out of desperation, when he was fourteen, as parents we basically took the bull by the horns and altered everything in his life to honour our #1 goal: to do whatever it took to build his self esteem and make him feel good about whom he was.
It’s a long story, but the result was a delightful 20 year old young man, who was at last, emerging, and who could at least be receptive and willing to give a place like Semiahmoo a chance. That was all we needed to do. The magic that is Semiahmoo did the rest!
Part of that magic is respecting the reality that “inclusion” isn’t always the answer! There are times when people with disabilities need and want to be surrounded by others who are like them. Last Fall, it took only a couple of weeks for the Tuesday Adult Night Out Program, and the sensational Musical Theatre program to become a part of Brook’s life, and he expressed continually and emphatically that he has “never felt so connected to people” (aside from his family). He loves it there!
The two evening programs were milestones (and don’t even get me started on the absolute joy and wonder that Brook’s family, extended family and even past and present one-on-one workers felt as we all sat in the audience, the night of their performance); but they were short, 2 to 3 hour activities for him. To participate in a full-day program, everyday, for two weeks is something even I didn’t really think he could handle, at least not with some kind of fall-out, stress or fatigue.
Typically, once Brook has done anything for more than a couple of hours, he needs hours of ‘recovery time’; and yet this week and last, he’s taken it all in his stride and can’t wait for the next day’s adventure! What more proof do you need that Semiahmoo House is something really special?
When Brook discovered that I was writing this article, he felt proud and requested that I include some of his words. They are, “Please don’t ever, ever let them close this place down!”
The “Two Little Miracles Merging”….. In his family’s hearts, Brook is hardly a ‘little’ miracle, because we know he is someone special who has had to work so hard, and there is a place for him in this world. (And with his 6’2, 200+ pound frame he is hardly little!) …..and Semiahmoo House? That is most definitely not a ‘little’ miracle, either!”
Written by Stephanie Simone
Here are the videos the summer camps made!
And here is the rec rockers summer camp music video for the song that they recorded, “Brokenhearted” by Karmin: