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Camp Woodchuck Provides "Regular Kid Plan"

Growing Up At Camp Woodchuck

When her newborn son Carlos was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Ana cried for 4 months. Her husband, Othon had been in an accident and was unable to work and she was completely overwhelmed. “I cried every day,” she said. “I kept asking, Why Me? Then I said to myself, Carlos is here, and I have to choose the best things for him. My question changed to Why Not Me?”

Ana didn’t speak English and didn’t know how to ask for help for Carlos, so she enrolled in an English-Speaking class and began her journey as an Advocate. She contacted Rainbows and Carlos started receiving in-home services once a month through the Infant/Toddler Services program. When she wanted more services for Carlos, Ana started him at Heartsprings. “It wasn’t enough,” said Ana. “I started knocking on different doors and even got Carlos in private swimming lessons to help strengthen his muscles. I was always looking for more for him.”

When Carlos turned 2 and was still not walking, Ana enrolled him in Rainbows’ Early Care and Education program. “This was the best decision I ever made,” she said. Carlos started walking, learned to brush his teeth, and was potty-trained. While he started out very shy, Carlos soon gained confidence and grew into a social, happy child. After he started school, Carlos began receiving after-school Family Support Services and attending Camp Woodchuck in the summers, but whenever Carlos and his mom drive by Kids’ Point, Carlos grins as he points out “my school”.

Now 17 years old, Carlos is a typical teenager with a love for fast food and basketball, and right now has a lot of emotions. He is very active in Special Olympics and Rainbows makes it possible for him to get to all his practices. “His Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are a blessing to him and to us,” said Ana. “They help keep him busy, scheduled, and also have fun. They also allow me to share free time with my husband. We can sit and enjoy a hot tea together.”

Keeping a routine is very important to Carlos. During the summer, he looks at his calendar every evening to see what he’ll be doing at Camp the next day. He then checks the weather and sets out his clothes. He goes to bed thinking about his personal plan, wakes up every morning at 6:30, checks his schedule that he completed the night before, and is excited for his day. “It means a lot to me that Carlos has a regular kid plan,” said Ana. His favorite parts about Camp are the people. “It’s very important for Carlos to be around different adults and meet new kids,” said Ana. “He also has many old friends. He has grown up with the kids at Camp. Everybody knows Carlos.”

Ana and Othon are nervous about Carlos graduating from high school in 2024 but know Carlos will be okay. He is healthy, kind, and happy, and learning responsibility day by day. Challenges with not enough time or money, more doctors’ appointments and sick days are part of the family’s life. ““Now we’re okay,” said Ana. “Carlos changes our day for the better. He teaches us how simple things can be. We can take a walk in the park and enjoy it. He and his dad are buddies, working outside together and going to Home Depot. At the end of the day, Carlos will say thank you and everything is worth it.”

Carlos is an accomplished break dancer and has been a part of Rainbows’ Fashion Passion event for several years. “I know exactly how important the money raised is for the children,” said Ana. “For some people, this is just one night for Rainbows. For us, it’s the rest of our lives.”

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