[Re-posted from original blog post dated Sep. 11, 2013]
Our Inclusion Film Camp for Military Children with autism is one of the most gratifying programs we put on at ACT Today!
Military wife and autism mom Keary Mason sent us this letter, which we want to share with you. And to the Mason family and all of our brave military families fighting for their country and their children, we thank you!
“Film Camp is the best experience of the year” or so said my son, Mackenzie.
This was my children’s second year at camp and it was the most incredible experience. I actually volunteered as the Film Camp Coordinator this year and I have to say that it was the MOST rewarding experience. Not only did I as a mother get to see my own children grow and gain confidence but I saw all of the children change over the camp’s two weeks. It was so fulfilling to see a child who wanted nothing to do with filming want to go onscreen and enjoy it and to know you were a part of it.
I enjoyed the relationships I watched my children make and the bonds I formed with other parents. These are people we will forever be in touch with. My children truly made “friends.” They gained confidence and they found their voice. I too made friends and found a passion. I truly cried our first day without camp because I just missed all of their sweet faces and the amazing adults who make this work. Their passion is immeasurable. They have my heart and my gratitude forever.
My son Mackenzie, who is 16 went from a shy kid in pull out SDC (small group classes) to having the confidence now to approach people and he even went to the zoo with another camper. He changed schools after we got back to one of the area’s most challenging prep schools with honors and AP classes. He joined is school’s dodge ball team, went to the school’s dance, made new friends, ditched having a full time one on one aide and signed on for robotics. These are things I’m so proud of and amazed by. He is truly coming out of his shell.
My daughter Kylie, who is 9 is incredibly sensitive (and it often comes out as mean) because she rarely sees her Daddy. He is a Gunner’s Mate First Class who spends between 8 – 12 months away each year on special missions. Her loss has really caused her to develop a thin skin but I noticed this year that although the kids are mean her attitude about it has changed. She is confident in her style, her hobbies, her choice of friends and she tries to show it. One of the things she is most proud of are the film’s she helped create. The other thing I noticed with Kylie is her ability to be patient and empathetic to others. She decided, after hanging out a few times, that one of the boys in the group is her “little brother” and has taken it upon herself to be protective and have fun with him. The cutest part is that she and her friends treat him no differently just because he has Autism.
While I know this Film Premiere is once again bittersweet for my babies as their Daddy is gone once again…. I also know the fun they will have giving him his own special screening of their movie. We appreciate the opportunity and know how much it means to all of the military families. Without this program our kids would never have an opportunity like this. Seeing the same families at the premiere and the following year at camp continues to impact them socially and creates even stronger bonds.
So I think I will leave you with a cute story from our 2 weeks at camp. My children and I slept in the same hotel room, were at camp all day, were together in the car and together basically every moment and they never argued. Not only did they not argue they got along….they swam, they hugged, they mugged for pictures but one morning on our way to camp in the car while playing electronic Life (the board game) my son started to get very upset because he and his “wife” didn’t get babies….my daughter pops in and says “Oh Mackenzie you can have some of mine I have plenty and plan to adopt and work with kids with Autism.”
Thank you again,
Wife of GM1 Nicholas M. Mason