2018 marks the first year Ryder attends Zajac Ranch for Children and, based on his mother’s feedback, it most definitely will not be the last. “He started asking to go back next year before he even left camp,” says Ryder’s mom, Kayla.

Ryder “has a laundry list of diagnoses; the most prominent are Down Syndrome, autism and AVSD,” Kayla explains. As a result, Ryder spends a large portion of his weeks in therapy sessions where he works with speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and behavioural interventionists to achieve certain physical and academic goals. In addition to his therapy sessions, he attends multiple doctors’ appointments each month. In the midst of all his medical commitments, Ryder is still able to participate in extracurricular activities with Scouts Canada and partake in a seasonal sport of his choice! Particularly exciting is Ryder’s starting grade two in a full inclusion classroom this fall.

Camp provided an opportunity for Ryder to have fun and be empowered through participating in some of his favourite activities: singing at the campfire, swimming, horseback riding, and even dancing!

Part of our mission at Zajac Ranch is to create lasting opportunities for friendship and fulfillment – Ryder seized these opportunities. His mom shares how meeting Ryder’s newfound friend Jonathan, and paddling with him on the ‘white boat’ (in Ryder’s words), was one of his favourite memories from camp. Kayla shares that “he and his buddy have connected a couple of times since camp and they have a blast together.” She affirms that by attending camp, he “gained not only friendship but [also] independence… he is more confident in his own abilities now.”

To parents who are considering sending their child to camp, especially for the first time, we get an enthusiastic “DO IT!!!!” from Kayla. She continues, “even if you think they might not be ready, or if you yourself are not ready; it will be okay! The staff is so supportive, of not only the kids, but the parents as well. Ryder had never spent a week away from home not with family or without his brother and he LOVED the chance to be independent.”