What does attending Zajac Ranch mean for Victor? It means freedom; freedom to be his fun, playful, and social self with peers and counsellors without the pressures and demands of the school setting. It also means freedom from the misunderstandings that often accompany him and other individuals with autism.
As any other 15 year-old teenager, Victor craves a sense of independence he seldom gets at home. Due his medical conditions, namely autism, apraxia and developmental coordination disorder, Victor faces multiple challenges as he goes about his daily life. As a result, Victor’s activities are mostly in his parents’ company as they are able to provide the support and understanding he needs.
Yet, there is one time a year when the story changes. When Victor attends Zajac Ranch, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Stave Lake and in the company of a supportive and considerate staff, he is encouraged to develop a greater sense of independence by believing that he can.
Given the fact that Victor requires 1:1 support, which Zajac Ranch strives to provide for him and other campers who require it, the process of letting go and having him stay at camp was not as easy as it might sound. In fact, Franceska, Victor’s mum, shares with us that before sending Victor to camp they ‘practiced’ what having him stay at camp would entail. With the help of our Camp Director, both Victor and his parents were well-equipped to let go of the worry and the anxiety many campers experience when being away from parents – and vice versa – especially for the first time. Victor’s parents were able to leave feeling more secure and positive. It is precisely this separation process that makes many parents and campers hesitant to attend Zajac Ranch. But, as Franceska puts it, “you never know until you try!”
The stories when kids return home after camp are all the evidence needed to prove this is a worthwhile experience. Victor, for instance, enjoys all the activities that are ‘frowned upon’ at home – the water gun and shaving cream fights, the contests, and all other tactile and messy activities. All these activities allow Victor to simply enjoy everything boys his age are enjoying, while feeling valued exactly as he is. In short, Victor’s Story demonstrates that Zajac Ranch is simply the place where the indescribable fredom we all long for becomes a possibility.