Report of Treasures of Heaven Camp (“Camp New Hope”)
New Hope Equestrian Facility, Port Jervis, NY
Aug. 1-4, 2013
With the bucolic setting of New Hope Farms as the backdrop, the stage was set for a peaceful, yet moving, sometimes heart-wrenching retreat for our Treasures of Heaven young adults and their parents. Over the course of 3 days, the families had a transformational weekend. This year, 10 families participated, coming from as far as San Diego, CA. For some families, it was their first time to come to this unique retreat, while 5 families were veterans.
Yoshi and Fran Ichijo, the camp organizers, developed a program for families with a Treasures of Heaven child to find solace and comfort in sharing about the day to day struggles of life with a special needs young adult. During the weekend 2 student volunteers paired up with each Treasures of Heaven kid. The kids do fun activities together, with a wonderful horse-back riding component. The parents talk in a large, elegant room, sharing their tears, joys and successes. This unique camp is largely possible through the generosity of Lesa and Lowell Ellanson, caretakers of the farm, who go to great lengths to prepare the facility.
A very beautiful aspect of Camp New Hope is that the student helpers have a very deep experience helping the ToH kids, some of whom can barely tie their shoes, or go to the bathroom by themselves. In helping someone so helpless, the young volunteers find the best within themselves. The ToH kids have feelings, long for love and acceptance just like “normal” kids. In their young lives so far, they have often been shunned, teased, or forgotten, with few friends and have been largely misunderstood. The young mentors show them love, compassion, and total acceptance. The camp experience culminates with a Saturday evening of entertainment where each team of 3 (2 mentors and 1 ToH kid) puts on a skit, a poem or art created by them using the skills, taste and beauty of the ToH child. This year, the entertainment was particularly creative: it included an erupting volcano, a king, and Lego sculpture antics. All of the activities were exceedingly well-run by activities coordinators Christina Ellanson and Carlina Ichijo Ellanson.
The parents were able to spend time together knowing that their Treasures of Heaven child was having a great time and getting tons of love and attention. Parents shared their struggles and victories, sometimes shedding tears as they shared their story. One mother who came for the first time said that the pain she had carried somewhere in her heart was washed away at the camp.
The parents also made plans for the future, based on the new official non-profit status of the Treasure of Heaven, Inc., accomplished this spring by outgoing President Carol Matsuuchi. We held breakout sessions to plan for a future group home building, to discuss how to do publicity, which activities we can implement RIGHT NOW, and plans for next year’s camp, as this may be the last time that New Hope can host the camp.
The official new board of directors was voted in, and the new President, Mr. Yoshi Ichijo, was nominated and voted in. The new Secretary/Treasurer is Carol Matsuuchi and the other three board members are Frances Ichijo, Lesa Ellanson, and Masako Feddema. The board will meet annually face to face and via webinar as needed.
The hope is to eventually have a community where we have our own residences, run by excellent and caring staff members, experienced in the field of Special Needs. We are looking for prospective staff who are already trained to run day programs and coordinate all the resources available through the various local and federal government programs that already exist. Having a large endowment or unlimited revenue would help in this quest, of course. The group is open to all ideas to accomplish the organization’s goal of providing the best possible life for our special needs young adults.
The food was lovingly prepared by 3 moms, Elizabeth Yamada, Martha Tashiro, and Virginia Scazzero. The horses were well taken care of by Nobue Tashiro, Ryo Tashiro and Lisa Scazzero. This is truly a community effort by many hands and feet, and an abundance of warm hearts.
Thank you to all of our volunteers!
Hannah Scazzero / Luke Scazzero / Jessie Colombrito / Sasha Butler / Kiki Ayad / Mika Ripowcan / Kristine Clark / Meena Okamoto / Meta Learey / Gwendolin Learey / Christabel Matthew / Shin Ah Moon / Daigo Yamada / Virginia-Rose Loew / Mira Brady / Marshall Kise / Wonhyong Todd / Sayaka Stephens / Sarah Urban / Rebecca Brosseau / Ana Stewart / Sunghyo Alexander
Submitted by Yoshi and Fran Ichijo
(Edited by C. Matsuuchi)