The Butler Family

As told by Maura and Christopher Butler


Life can get messy, full, and tough, but at Jill’s House, we can rest assured our special kids are treated with dignity, respect, and love. This blesses our whole family. It is incredible!

When Dorothy was born, we weren’t aware she would have special needs, but my maternal instincts were telling me that something was different. When she was about six months old and not able to sit up, I brought my concerns to our pediatrician. I was encouraged not to worry and was told that each child develops at a different pace. But when Dorothy was almost one year old and only barely able to sit but certainly not crawl, I became her advocate. I educated myself about terms such as “low muscle tone,” “occupational therapy,” and “speech therapy.” I had never heard of a developmental pediatrician but learned and then fought for her to be seen by one.

As grateful as we were to be on a path with both a new pediatrician who listened to my concerns and a developmental pediatrician, we still didn’t have a diagnosis for Dorothy. She was receiving medical care, multiple therapies, and undergoing dozens of tests, and we discussed a variety of treatment options, but there was no clear diagnosis. I continued to advocate for Dorothy through this difficult season. (I’ve never really stopped.) I trusted that the Lord was in control and certainly grew in faith without knowing what Dorothy’s diagnosis was. Abandoning my earthly desires “to know” was not a one-time act of will; it was put on repeat.

When Dorothy was nine years old, we were finally able to understand the unique way in which God had knit Dorothy together. Through genetic testing, we discovered that Dorothy has Mowat–Wilson syndrome, a rare genetic condition with only a few hundred known cases worldwide. The moment I was told her diagnosis, I was overcome with joy. We couldn’t help but praise God. Our joy might not have made sense to our medical team, but we had been searching for answers for nine years, and in a way, I felt like God had blessed us for our faithfulness.

God made Dorothy intentionally and on purpose, without mistakes or hiccups. Dorothy has a role to play in salvation history that only she can fulfill, and Mowat–Wilson syndrome is part of that story.

Jill’s House is also part of the story!

We found out about Jill’s House from a family at Dorothy’s elementary school. We didn’t have support or family nearby, and we were tired. I remember freaking out during her first weekend overnight stay. I called many times, and I kept thinking, “Who needs respite from her own child?!” A woman I didn’t know very well (we have since become friends) had come to our home for a mom’s group that weekend, and she helped me understand that my children, including Dorothy, needed respite, too. Dorothy needing respite from us hadn’t crossed my mind. When I began to consider how Jill’s House was providing a time of respite for our whole family, it radically changed my perspective.

While Dorothy is at Jill’s House, we plan activities our other five children do not get to do otherwise. Our kids don’t feel that Dorothy needs to be somewhere else so they can have a good time. On the contrary, they feel free to have fun because they know she is having a blast at Jill’s House! Dorothy is so happy at Jill’s House; she wants to go there, she has friends there, and she gets to do things she loves with wonderful people.

The constant vigilance one must have on a child with special needs gets exhausting, not in an exasperating way, but mentally and physically exhausting. While Dorothy is at Jill’s House, though we may be involved in busy activities, I feel relaxed. That is what respite is! Several years ago, I sat on a panel discussion with other Jill’s House moms, and I remember all of us shared that other than Jill’s House, we had nowhere else for respite. I am so grateful for the impact Jill’s House has had on so many families!

The Farrell Family

Told by Sean and Jenee Farrell

For Sam, Jill’s House Rocky Top Camp in Nashville is the happiest place on the planet! It’s his most favorite place to be.

Sam has been attending Jill’s House Weekend Adventures Camp since he was 12 years old. We started exploring different day camps and programs for Sam long before we sent him to Jill’s House. We wanted him to experience the youth church programs that meant a lot to us during our own childhood. However, we went through some frustrating experiences when Sam was turned away from other programs that couldn’t accommodate him. It was heartbreaking!

When we first heard about Jill’s House, we had obvious concerns. But when we met with the Local Program Manager, we were very impressed by the depth of her questions and her interest in Sam and his motivations. We were relieved to hear that Sam would be welcomed, cared for, and kept happy.

Sam is very social and loves to be active. He has a huge heart and a great sense of humor. He loves water slides, roller coasters, music, and dancing. He enjoys helping in the kitchen and likes knowing that he’s done something well. Although we were sure that camp would be a great experience for him, we were still cautiously optimistic.

When the first weekend arrived, we anxiously waited for the phone call asking us to pick him up—the call to tell us that they could no longer accommodate Sam. This is what we had been used to. But the call never came! Then, when we picked Sam up at the end of the weekend, he was radiating happiness. Pictures of him from that weekend—and those of many others he’s attended since then—show him with the biggest smile and a constant look of pure joy. We finally found what we had been looking for!

Sam excels in an environment that is set up specifically for him. Inclusivity is good too, for many reasons. But Sam thrives better in an environment that is designed just for him, and Jill’s House offers that experience. Everything that Jill’s House offers has been designed with him and other kids like him in mind.

Once we realized that Sam was going to be comfortable and accepted at Jill’s House, we felt immense gratitude, as if we had all been given the most tremendous gift.

Having a child with special needs can be difficult. We know Sam’s younger brother also feels that. But we also see how our family has grown in being compassionate and understanding of one another, and other families too. While Sam is at Jill’s House, we have been able to use the opportunity to connect in our marriage and take our younger son to activities that don’t interest Sam.

Sam is now 17 years old and will graduate from high school this spring. During the fall, he will move into vocational training, where he will continue to develop skills for employment. He enjoys helping in the school cafeteria and also works in the school store. Sam has a big heart and even bigger enthusiasm. He’s a popular guy wherever he goes!

When Sam comes home from camp, he will go through the whole list of foods he ate and the activities he did. And he would always ask to return! We have so many emotions as we consider this next chapter in Sam’s life. We are excited, yet we also feel sad that his time at Jill’s House is coming to an end. We will always be grateful for Jill’s House and the incredibly passionate staff at Jill’s House and Camp Rocky Top!


The Hansen Family

Told by Grant and Julie Hansen

Olivia is 11 years old! She loves to be with people and socialize. She participates in her cheer team, plays all kinds of sports, and is a member of our local Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts troops. She also loves going out to eat and cooking food at home. She would say her least favorite thing is feeling bored, so we try to fill her days with activities she enjoys!

Olivia also loves being around people. Before she could even talk, she would manage to put herself in the middle of other kids while playing. As social as she is now, you wouldn’t be able to guess that she didn’t begin talking until after her 5th birthday!

We heard about Jill’s House from a Facebook group for parents who have children with autism. A parent mentioned that she had sent her son to Jill’s House, and he had a great time there. We had looked into other overnight opportunities for Olivia, but they either were week-long camps that we knew wouldn’t be a good fit for her or just didn’t feel right to us. However, Jill’s House and the local Garden State weekend camp were exactly what we were looking for!

Eventually, we were able to visit the camp and knew right away that it would be the perfect experience for Olivia. We wanted her to feel confident that she could be without us and still be okay. The Garden State Local Program Manager made us feel so comfortable! We were even told that if Olivia needed to talk to us at any time during her first stay, the staff would allow her to call home. But her first stay at Garden State camp was a perfect experience for her, and we didn’t hear from her at all!

Finding support is challenging. Olivia’s weekend away at camp was the first time we were alone in 11 years. We were so excited to have this time together that we probably stacked our weekend with too many fun things, but it was very special for us. The best part of our weekend by far was knowing that Olivia was safe and having a great time.

When we picked Olivia up at the end of the weekend, she got in the car and kept asking us when she could go back. Although she doesn’t share a lot of details about her time at camp, we learned that her favorite activity was the zip line, which she was able to ride twice. She also enjoyed playing in the pool and loved having a sleepover with her friend in the cabin.

We are truly grateful for Jill’s House. We think it’s amazing that Olivia has had this opportunity and that Jill’s House allows her to thrive in a safe environment among other kids. Now that her needs for social interaction with her friends are being met, it is helping her grow socially and our comfort level has grown too, because we know that Olivia will be ok.

We love Jill’s House so much!

The Sullivan Family

Told by Sarah Sullivan

When our first child was born, we were living in California. Shortly after she was born, I stopped working, and we decided to move into my parent’s home in Illinois. We had planned to stay with them for a short time, so we could save some money. But then Kate was born, and our plans changed.

When I was pregnant with Kate, we decided not to do any prenatal testing but we had ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy. I remember during one ultrasound the lab technician took extra time looking at the space where her heart was, but we were not told about any problems. Kate was born with two holes in her heart and she was also diagnosed with Down syndrome. She had to undergo open-heart surgery when she was just three months old; then a pacemaker had to be put in, as some complications occurred because of the surgery. She was in the hospital for two weeks! Gratefully, we were with my parents during that time as they helped with taking care of our older daughter. God knew what we needed when He moved us to Illinois!

I had studied early child development before our first child was born and worked with kids with special needs—even those with Down syndrome, but we didn’t know what Kate’s diagnosis would mean for her or our family. Looking back, I believe God was preparing me for Kate, and I think God knew that I needed to see her and hold her in my arms before we received the diagnosis.

Those first few years of her life were filled with so many visits to doctors. At one point, she had eight different doctors! She is quite healthy now and doing very well.

In Illinois, Kate was involved in a program for children with Down syndrome, where she received most of her early support. The program was so wonderful and it offered profound encouragement to her and our family! I remember thinking about how much we were going to miss the program when we moved to Virginia after a few years. But then when we moved to Virginia, we found Jill’s House!

When I first learned about Jill’s House, I visited their website and read Brenda’s testimony there. I remember being so touched by her words! In her testimony, Brenda shared about their busy life with their older boys, and when Jill was born and later developed very special needs, she felt she couldn’t leave Jill’s side. They were all in desperate need of rest, but Brenda prayed that God would use Jill’s life for a greater purpose. When I read her words, all I could think was that when Jill was born, God was also thinking about Kate, our family, and all the other families that are being served by Jill’s House today. God is sovereign over all, and I’m so thankful to Lon and Brenda for their faithfulness in trusting The Lord with Jill’s life.

God IS good, and He has a plan! Life can be hard, and we don’t always understand what is happening, but when you step back and trust that He is faithful, you can see that He is working. Brenda’s words really touched my heart and helped me to trust that God is working in our lives too.

Kate started going to Jill’s House when she turned six years old and has been going there for the last 10 years. When she was younger, Kate was quite active. So, we found it hard to do our daily chores or even take her to the park. We would often avoid engaging in certain outings as a family because it was such a challenge. Kate is 16 years old now and full of life! She has a wonderful sense of humor, and she loves her family. She enjoys going out to eat, playing basketball, and putting on dance shows (for us) at home and Jill’s House.

Kids with special needs might be overwhelming or intimidating to some people. But everyone at Jill’s House sees these kids for who they are. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He has a plan for every single person on this planet. Everyone at Jill’s House seems to know that; they embrace that, and they love and serve our kids and families so beautifully! Also, from a practical standpoint, we can truly rest knowing that while Kate is in Jill’s House, there are on-duty nurses and excellent staff to tend to her medical needs and any situation that may arise. Everything about Jill’s House is such a blessing to our family!

The Mann Family

Told by Lauren and Adam Mann

We met in high school at Bishop O’Connell in Arlington, VA. Although we attended separate colleges, we returned home after graduation, got married, and quickly welcomed Isaac into our family. Isaac is our firstborn, and he has three siblings. Family is very important to us! Our extended family lives in Northern Virginia. Our kids are growing up with multiple generations and get to spend a lot of time with the family and church. We believe this is also valuable for Isaac!

Isaac was a preemie and had an extensive hospital stay at the time of his birth. We found out that Isaac had a heart defect when I was pregnant, so he had to undergo surgery soon after he was born. When he was about two weeks old, we learned that he had a genetic condition, among many other diagnoses. However, we were told that its significance was unknown, so we focused on other areas of Isaac’s body that had greater, more life-threatening needs.

As Isaac grew older, he missed milestones such as crawling and walking. Initially, doctors told us that this was because he was a preemie. We were hopeful that he would catch up, but he continued to fall further behind. Isaac was one-and-a-half years old when our second child was born. As his sister grew, it became more apparent to us how delayed Isaac was. Finally, when Isaac was two years old, we saw a geneticist.

The geneticist ran tests and tried to assure us by saying that everyone has some degree of abnormality. What we were facing with Isaac could be nothing. We learned that Isaac has 4Q Chromosome Deletion Syndrome. It is estimated that only one in 100,000 children are affected by this syndrome. The amount of genetic information he is missing is minuscule, and the geneticist explained that the amount of information Isaac is missing in his genetic DNA is equivalent to a single page of a 3,000-page book. However, he was not sure how this would affect Isaac because what genes are missing in our DNA is of greater concern than the number of genes missing. This has turned out to be very significant for Isaac. He has relatively severe issues with the amount of genetic information he is missing.

He has been through many diagnoses over the years. So, it is hard to figure out what to attribute to the genetic condition and what could be related to the other diagnoses. Thankfully, a parent support group of other 4Q Chromosome Deletion kids has been very helpful to us in navigating through this relatively unknown journey. Jill’s House has also been a tremendous lifeline, providing a space for us to pause and take a breath.

We are both nurses at Children’s National in DC, which is where we learned about Jill’s House. The thought of sending Isaac to overnight respite care scared us because he can’t talk at all. We know what Isaac needs; but sometimes, even close family members have difficulty meeting his needs. However, when a coworker who also happens to work at Jill’s House shared how much she valued and trusted the organization’s mission, we decided to initiate the intake process.

He has done a few overnight stays, our other kids have attended the typically abled siblings’ night, and we have enjoyed a few mom-and-dad gatherings. The Jill’s House community seems really strong and close-knit! There are so many outreach programs for everyone in the family. We are excited to continue with Jill’s House!

The first time Isaac stayed at Jill’s House, we called a few times and were told that he was having so much fun. When it was time to pick him up, it was hard to get him into the car to go home! The joy on his face was so encouraging for us! For a long time afterward, Isaac used his communication device to say “House! House! House!”. So we knew he thought about Jill’s House often, and he now has his own “Jill’s House” button.

When you first look at respite care, there can be a little bit of guilt. But it’s nice to know that we can do something with our other children, or something for the two of us, and Isaac will also be having a good time with people we trust.

We are just so grateful for Jill’s House!

The Yao Family

by Qin Li

We are a family of five—our oldest is a senior in high school and is processing his college admission; our youngest is in 6th grade; and Michelle, who goes by Mimi, is 14 years old and a regular at Jill’s House!

Mimi does not regularly interact with people outside of school and at home, so Jill’s House has become another home for her. Jill’s House has been providing stability and predictability for her since elementary school. She knows what she is getting and that she is being taken care of. Jill’s House helps provide Mimi with a good quality of life!

Mimi was born healthy, but when she turned one year old, we noticed some developmental delays. After a series of tests, we found out that she had a chromosomal abnormality. We learned that there could be a wide range of functional behavioral capabilities with this disorder, so we weren’t sure how her development would be. We started early intervention and tried different therapies. We even traveled out of state to see different specialists. We learned that there were different strategies we could try, and we were given lists of things to work on with Mimi, but nothing seemed to work. It was such a hard time for our family. We were exhausted, and so was Mimi!

Then, during Mimi’s annual visit with her pediatrician, we were advised to treat Mimi as a normal child. We were also told that her development curve was what it would be, and all we could do was bring her closest to what her curve was. Simply put, he told us to ensure she is healthy and happy with a good quality of life. We kept thinking, “Are we doing enough for Mimi? Are we pursuing all the answers? If we do more, will she be more functioning?” We needed to hear his advice. It was almost as if he had given us the freedom to simply love our daughter as God had given her to us.

Mimi started attending Jill’s House Weekend Program, then Summer Day Camp. We truly appreciate how Jill’s House’s team works together to support her! The amount of care and coordination is amazing. From the intake and program teams to the office staff—everyone works together to attend to and care for Mimi. We used to send food from home, but now we don’t even send her food because we are more and more comfortable.

We are relaxed when Mimi is at Jill’s House. We are comfortable with the high level of care she is given and grateful for how Jill’s House has impacted our whole family, not just Mimi.

Our older son was in middle school when Mimi started going to Jill’s House, so he can recall how exhausted and down we were before Jill’s House. Like us, he internalized the struggles that Mimi had gone through as a young child. With Jill’s House, he recognizes the difference Jill’s House has made in Mimi’s life and the impact it has had on our family’s journey. He volunteered at Jill’s House and made his independent financial contribution to Jill’s House. Jill’s House helped Mimi as well as the rest of us to find love, purpose, and peace of mind, we are very grateful for that.

We enjoy such peace of mind when Mimi is at Jill’s House, and we get to spend one-on-one time with our two other kids. That time is precious, and we appreciate it. We play games together or just play with our dog, Willow. We brought Willow home during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been very kind to Mimi, and is such a great addition to our family.

Mimi expresses herself emotionally with smiles and cuddles. She can be very charming! While she is at Jill’s House, we believe she is at her best because she feels loved and very comfortable. The level of trust we have in Jill’s House allows us to truly rest! We have had a long family journey. I believe there is a purpose in everything, and Jill’s House has been such an important part of our journey and our family.

The Roland Family

Told by Samantha Roland

Oftentimes, you hear something, and you can’t help but think, “Wow, that’s terrible. I didn’t expect that!” Our family has faced less-than-desirable diagnoses, depression, and fear. We have said, “Wow, we didn’t expect that!” but God used those moments; He has shown us that you can still be blessed. Our story is better and stronger, and we can’t help but say, “God is so good!”

When we were pregnant with Zoe, we opted to forego prenatal testing. We didn’t believe testing was necessary, as any result we might have received would not have changed the love we had for our unborn child. In hindsight, it might have been helpful from a preparation standpoint. We are older parents, but figured we were heading on a standard journey with a typically abled child.

When Zoe was born, we discovered she had Down syndrome, and our world became very confusing. We hadn’t received any resources and didn’t know how to care for a special-needs child. I remember a social worker speaking with us in the hospital, but even that meeting was discouraging. What we were facing was not at all what we had expected.

Zoe’s first year was full of medical appointments, and she had many seizures. She couldn’t even smile! We were in an unknown space, and I was unable to continue working at my job, as caring for my family was a lot of work.

Zoe is now 11, and though our journey was hard, we truly feel like we hit the jackpot with our sweet and tender girl. She is the most delightful person, and we are so grateful God chose her for our family story.

When Zoe was around 1 year old, God began to perform miracles in our family, as He began to heal us and knit us together! God healed Zoe of her seizures when she was a little over a year old, and my husband and I were strengthened as parents of a special needs child. Besides these miracles, the Lord brought Jill’s House to us!

I found out about Jill’s House from a mom at the playground. I was apprehensive, but excited to learn that Jill’s House is a Christian organization. Zoe has now gone to Jill’s House 3 times! She loves camp so much. Jill’s House is the most wonderful experience for her!

Zoe’s weekends at Jill’s House help her to feel like a grown-up girl. She gets to try on an independent life and enjoys doing things that other kids get to enjoy! She would probably say her favorite part about camp is sleeping in a sleeping bag, hanging out with friends, packing all her favorite belongings for the weekend, and spending a weekend away.

Families like ours don’t have much margin for anything outside our daily load. But we are also used to carrying it all. So, realizing that we aren’t carrying the load by ourselves, that we have a team of supporters and encouragers in Jill’s House, means so much. It’s just another way God has shown His faithfulness to us.

We have learned so much through Zoe! Walking through life with her and our community of friends has opened our eyes to the very special needs we all have. The team at Jill’s House has shown us that the most healing message anyone can hear is that even in your unloveliness, you are still loved! The team really covers everything they do for every child, with love and understanding. Having a team of people who love us, though we are different, is so healing to our hearts.

The Kalata Family

Told by William & Maribel Kalata

We are a close-knit family! We watch movies together, we all talk about our favorite shows, and we spend a lot of time together at home. We are protective of our children, and our kids look after each other. Our kids are especially protective of their little brother, Ian!

Ian is 16 years old and full of life! Like other teenage boys, he enjoys his electronics and drawing, but because of Jill’s House camp, he has recently taken an interest in horses.

We have 2 cats at home, which makes him jumpy, and when he sees a dog outside, he will shriek back, but when he’s at camp, he becomes a different boy.

He not only enjoys the animals, but he also pets them. He has even gone riding on horseback! Jill’s House does that for him! Jill’s House helps him feel comfortable with new experiences and has helped him to be an adventurous boy.

Ian has been going to Jill’s House since he was 6 years old. The first weekend he stayed at Jill’s house was a nerve-wracking weekend for us! Leaving him for that first weekend was so hard. As parents, we felt guilty because Ian was never away from us. We were concerned that he would be okay, or that he wouldn’t understand what was happening. We worried about him eloping. We were very scared. But he had the most amazing time!

The second time he went to Jill’s House, he didn’t even look back at us as he walked through the doors!

Ian has been going to Jill’s House for 10 years. We know it’s less about how we feel when he is away and more about how much fun he has there and how comfortable he is. He loves Jill’s House so much, and we have grown to appreciate what Jill’s House does for him.

We think that Ian considers Jill’s House as an extended family. When we are talking about Jill’s House, whether it is going to the “big house” in Tysons or attending a camp weekend, his face lights up, and we know that he feels connected.

One of the nurses had the experience of being at both Jill’s House and at the camp, and she commented that when Ian is at Tysons, he is there to chill and hang out with friends.

But when he goes to camp, he is an adventurous boy! He is leading the charge and doing everything available at the camp. That is what Jill’s House has done for him. He has found relationships and connections, and he has gained confidence!

In terms of spiritual work—making sure the kids feel cared for, being kind and compassionate, and sharing God’s love—we think he understands all of that!

He’s not super verbal, but we will often hear him singing “Jesus loves me this I know”. We talk about Jesus and pray together, but we don’t attend church.

Jill’s House has helped Ian to feel the love of Jesus. I think he has made the connection between Jill’s House and Jesus, and he feels loved.

Jill’s House weekends are placed on Ian’s calendar, and we all do a countdown to these dates. Although Jill’s House is his special place, and the experiences are unique for him, we all feel like we have won the lottery. He looks forward to his visits so much that we can’t help but feel grateful in our hearts. We tell everyone about Jill’s House because of how much Ian loves it and what it has done for him.

The Wangsness Family

Told by Stephanie and Jonathan Wangsness

We are an active family of four, if you include our family dog! We like to get outside, and we enjoy doing things together. We have a lot of love in our house! We say “I love you” a lot, which is so important to us.

We have extended family members who live nearby; however, we consider our whole family to be bigger than just us and our relatives. We have been blessed with many caregivers over the years, and they have all become part of our family.

These individuals are welcomed into our home and trusted with our daughter, Leksi!

We search very hard for compassionate caregivers who have the drive and empathy needed to be with our daughter. Although it has been very hard, and sometimes it feels like we are on an island, when we can step back and regroup, we realize just how big our family is.

Leksi received her diagnosis when she was seven years old, but our journey began when she was about twelve months old. Leksi wasn’t crawling, walking, or hitting her other milestones. We visited several of the top medical centers in search of answers, but test after test left us feeling uncertain and without clarity.

Finally, through a series of DNA tests performed by our geneticist, we received the answers we had been searching for and learned that Leksi has an STXBP1 Disorder.

Although we were relieved to finally learn of Leksi’s diagnosis, there had only been about 350 diagnosed cases worldwide. We love our girl, love that God has given her to us, and are so very grateful to be on this journey with her!

We found out about Jill’s House around the time we received Leksi’s diagnosis, when she was seven years old. Leksi is very social, and she craves being around other kids. She doesn’t have as many options for social interaction outside of school, though.

That’s where Jill’s House shines! While Leksi is at Jill’s House, she gets to hang out with her friends and enjoy time away from us.

Leksi can’t communicate what her favorite things are about Jill’s House, so we are immensely grateful for the written recap after her weekend stays.

Leksi loves music and friends, and we are always happy when we read that she enjoyed the music room, singing in the chapel service, and being with her peers.

When we first started taking her to Jill’s House, she would cry. But now, when she goes to Jill’s House, she is all smiles as she walks back to the POD by herself. We can see that she is happy!

We also can’t imagine what our marriage relationship would be like without Jill’s House. When Leksi first started going, we would call every couple of hours just to check up and make sure she was okay. But now, we no longer do that. We know she is safe and happy, and we are 100 percent comfortable, which means we can truly rest and enjoy our time together.

There is beauty in the blessing of having Leksi in our lives! Although caregiving has become more challenging as Leksi has gotten older, Jill’s House staff also see the beauty in her.

They don’t see kids like Leksi as a burden; they see them as blessings. We also hear from Jill’s House staff that they are honored to be with our kids. It is incredibly beautiful to know that Jill’s House loves our sweet Leksi and sees her as we do.

God gave us Leksi on purpose and for a purpose. Leksi continues to be a blessing to us and to so many, and we are grateful we get to share her with Jill’s House.

The Anderson-Page Family

Told by Pam Anderson

Born on the 25th of December 2007, Steven was a Christmas baby. He was placed with us when he was merely 6 months old. He was such a tiny baby—weighing only 6 lbs. when he arrived. Back then, I never could have imagined how radically he would change my life. He may not be my biological child, but I think of him as a precious gift.

At 9 months old, Steven was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and we were able to get him into early intervention services. He went on to see different therapists and doctors. Over these last 2 years, he has had to undergo several surgeries. He has had bilateral hip surgery on both hips, developed contractures, has had to have surgery on one leg, and is about to have his other leg operated on this summer. He can no longer use a walker and is now primarily bound to a wheelchair. It has been hard, but he is a beautiful child and is taking on these challenges as well as he can.

Steven is very verbal. He speaks in phrases and can put words together to form sentences to tell you exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t. He is also very polite and charming, but he can be a pistol with me. I guess that’s what makes him a typical teenage boy.

I learned about Jill’s House many years ago through a friend on Steven’s T-ball team. I don’t know why it took me so long to inquire about it, but I’m so glad I finally did. I guess it’s because we as parents and guardians are so hesitant to send our special needs child into the care of someone else. We worry about our children and whether they will be all right or not. However, after observing Steven’s first weekend at the Rocky Top Weekend Adventures Camp, I wish I had enrolled him earlier!

Steven has now participated in the camp twice. As he was getting ready to go this last time, I heard him repeat to himself, “Make new friends.” As we arrived at the camp’s entrance, he rolled his window down and called out to his friends. It’s obvious that he loves the camp very much. When I picked him up at the end of the weekend, he went on and on about ziplining, water activities, and horseback riding. Yes, Steven went horseback riding! Who could have thought?


What I love the most about Jill’s House is that Steven can participate in various activities, and he is not made to feel limited in his ability. So many people are available to help each child experience all the activities, so if it was going to take 4 people to help Steven enjoy horseback riding, then that’s what they were going to do! One camp counselor told me, “Although Steven might forget about me, I will never forget about him.” In all honesty, I doubt Steven will ever forget how special the camp made him feel.

I suppose Steven would say that his favorite thing about camp is being able to see his friends. After all, being a special needs child can be very isolating; you can’t just run down the street and play with your friends. However, while at the camp, Steven gets to spend the entire weekend with his friends.

Since Steven is not my biological child, some people like to tell me just how good I am to be caring for him. What they don’t know is that he is the one who has been a blessing to me. He is a very special young man. I’m sure he would love to get up and run, but, unfortunately, that is never going to happen. I see him as a child sent by God, and I am committed to doing everything I possibly can for his sake.

Today, society has become more inclusive of kids and even adults with special needs by offering spaces for them to engage in a variety of activities; however, there is still a long way to go. Jill’s House does a beautiful job of helping these kids. I am so grateful for Jill’s House!

Thank you for making stories like Steven’s possible.