As parents we have dreams and hopes for our children. As parents of a child with special needs you learn to readjust your thought process and pray that your child will reach his potential, whatever it might be, and continue to live in a healthy, happy, well-adjusted way for as many years as Hashem gives them.
We as the parents of our sweet Naama Bracha had other wishes as well. We are assuming that this same feeling is shared by any other parent of a child with special needs. We prayed that none of our children would ever have to face the challenges and low moments that we have dealt with by being the parents of Naama. Please Hashem do not let any of our other children be faced with the pain of having a special needs child.
Lo and behold as many of you know, our daughter Dena and her husband Moshe were blessed with Zev. We use the word blessed because in a strange way having had Naama in our family was a blessing. We all learned quickly not to take anything for granted and to appreciate the little things in life each day.
Positive attitude is primarily what makes it easier to get through these tragedies.
When we heard the news of Zev’s diagnosis we were devastated—no it can’t be. Fortunately for him, he has parents who are well aware of these challenges and are dealing with them amazingly.
One of the brightest spots in our lives as parents of Naama was always our annual pilgrimage from Montreal to Parksville, NY to bring Naama to attend Camp HASC. She could not wait for camp to begin and we could not wait for her to go. Yes parents need and deserve a respite. Honestly, a parent who says that they are hesitant to send their child to HASC because they will miss them too much is denying their child an opportunity of a lifetime. We believe that it is a selfish thought. We remember when we used to drive up to camp and as soon as we would take Naama out of the car and put her in her wheelchair she would immediately wave goodbye to us as if to say “get out of here, this is my domain.” No tears here.
Now our car will drive in the opposite direction on Sunday for us to visit Zev at HASC on visiting day. He will be happy to see us, and then will promptly turn to his counselors who are now his very best friends and it is obvious that he would prefer to be with them. We are so happy for that!
There are no ways that we could ever honor enough the Kahn family for having had the insight, at a time when special needs children were not well accepted, to create such a haven. We are sure that they had no idea of how this would boomerang into all of the resources and even the size of the camp that now exists for the special needs population. As well, there are few words that can describe the staff that works at the camp. Each one is a profound individual totally dedicated to the world of special needs.
As great as everyone is, we find the counselors—the young people who spend days around the clock with our children—as the Tzadikim in this environment. Do not think that any of these high school, college and graduate students could not get much easier jobs working somewhere else. They are at HASC because they are totally devoted to their campers. We never could understand how a young student would be able to find love in her heart for our daughter who is in diapers and is extraordinarily handicapped. The physical care alone to take care of Naama is overwhelming. Yet her counselors were able to see beyond that and loved her passionately. They treated her as one of their own. To this day they remember her with such fondness that we are still receiving phone calls from some of her former counselors asking us to please let them know when Naama will be in town so that they can come and visit her and bring their children with them as well.
When and if a survey is ever done in the Jewish community of what accomplishments in the 20th century were the most significant, we are certain that Camp HASC would be considered as one of the top contributors. They taught the Jewish world that the special needs community needs to be integrated and treated with the same honor and respect as everyone else.
We have watched the videos that HASC films during the camp year. We see Zev, our grandson, with a smile much wider than we usually see. We noticed that on the floor of either the gym or one of the therapy rooms there is written in bright big letters HEAVEN ON EARTH. Can’t wait to join them on Sunday!