Community camp proves transformational for a Louisville girl with autism
Jamie Hall was like so many other moms whose kids were headed off to Camp Paradise Valley for community camp back in June; wondering would her child make friends? Would her daughter be ok so far from home? But what was different is that her 9-year-old daughter Jazmine has functional autism and with that was the fear that she would be susceptible to meltdowns due to sensory issues. “I was both excited for her but nervous at the same time. I was worried she’d have a meltdown over the heat or trying foods she wouldn’t normally eat at home, or petting animals. Would the counselors know how to accommodate her?” For nearly her entire life, Jamie struggled to get Jazmine to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and when it came to animals, Jazmine would immediately run in the opposite direction, even small household pets like kittens and puppies.
But after five short days down in Burkesville, Kentucky, Jamie knew her fears were unfounded as soon as Jazmine got off the bus back in Louisville. “She came running into my arms and started telling me all the things she did while at camp, things like jumping off the boat into Dale Hollow Lake, and eating foods like lasagna, shrimp, bacon, celery and meat, even petting a cow; I was astounded.” Making new friends also came easy to Jazmine, both on the ride down to camp and while she was there. “I liked it because the other kids were a lot like me and they really didn’t care about our differences. They were like, “that’s okay.” Jazmine said everyone at camp was different, but they all got along. Her transformation continued at home too says mom. “She wanted to go to bed at a decent hour and spends her time reading her bible before bed instead of watching television like she’d normally do.” “She became a lot more spiritual at camp and even asked us to get an adventure bible and study books. I don’t know what they did or how the counselors managed to break through, but clearly I need to take some notes.”
Jamie, who works part-time at The Louisville Area Command, had struggled to find a camp she could afford for Jazmine during the two years she’s lived in Louisville. That’s why she’s so thankful for the opportunity the Army’s camping ministry provides to families like hers. “This was Jazmine’s vacation and we’re so grateful she had something fun to do for the summer, but this was an experience that went well beyond our expectations.” Jazmine admits it was a little difficult to come home because she was having such a great time but she says she was looking forward to it so she could give her mom and dad a big hug. There’s no question what the plans are for next summer says Jamie. “She’s already talking about going back to camp and getting over some of her other fears like diving off the diving board. She may not accomplish it, but I know she’s not afraid to face her fear and at least give it a try.” These are the types of memories that will last a lifetime and as they often do, change lives forever.