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.