The summer that Mitchel was 5 years old was awful. His family didn’t understand Autism at the time and the mother Carla ended up being hospitalized with deep depression. It was clear that it was essential for the family to survive and thrive that Mitchel never again had a summer without structure. The family was looking for a 1:1 worker throughout the summers but the cost was a strain on the family as the father had lost his job and had gone back to school at age 37. Mitchel’s personal worker advocated on his behalf with VOCPRI to obtain funds for summer camps and a 1:1 worker.
Mitchel has been involved with VOCPRI since the age of 7 and 2017 marks the 10th year that VOCPRI has provided assistance for Mitchel’s family. This year, VOCPRI is funding two weeks at an overnight camp. While Mitchel is at camp, the rest of the family plans to go camping for a week near where Mitchel will be. Mitchel gets excited when we start packing to get ready for camp. His summer experiences affect his life after camp.
When asked “Is there a particular moment/memory that stands out for you?”, Carla answered, “The first time Mitchel went to overnight camp, it was so nice to be able to spend 1:1 time with our daughter but it was very hard to have him away. When my husband picked him up after camp, Mitchel said “NO HOME!” At this, we knew for sure he was having a good time and we were doing the right thing. The next year when I picked Mitchel up after camp, I couldn’t believe how nice the counsellors were when saying goodbye to him. They showed me pictures of him participating in activities with a SMILE on his face! He was even wearing a helmet when riding a horse; something no one had ever been able to put on him before. We are so proud that when Mitchel is away at overnight camp we have never had a phone call to say he is not doing well. Mitchel’s accomplishments at camp inspire us to keep challenging him. His successful time away also inspires our family unit to spend time together.”
Mitchel also benefits from other VOCPRI-funded projects. A couple times toys and food were donated to the family through Operation Santa Claus. Whenever they go to CPRI for an appointment, they must go early as Mitchel needs to play on the central playground; he would become anxious if he couldn’t. He also enjoys the video games, etc. in the waiting area in the Crombie Building.
This summer, one of the goals Mitchel will be working on is giving back to the community. He will be a volunteer for one full week (Tuesday-Friday) at an overnight camp. He will be helping out with setting up and cleaning up the dining hall. He will work with cleaning dishes and collecting garbage and taking it out. These are some of the tasks that he will be working on throughout his summer at the various overnight camps. As he transitions into these next several years from youth to adulthood, Mitchel will be developing some skills to help give back to the community that has in the past and continues to beautifully pour into him.
Carla wants to say to VOCPRI donors, “Since only CPRI clients receive funding from VOCPRI, CPRI remains invested in the families. The CPRI team and community rally around the families to give them a second chance and gain hope. Because of this, the family is able to thrive. Your donations are life-changing!”