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Justin’s “Happy Place”

Justin resized

As a teenager with epilepsy, autism and ADHD, Justin has experienced his share of hurdles — struggling with focus in school, listening and reading social cues. He has been seizure-free for several years, but takes medications to manage his conditions, which can cause unpleasant side effects.

For more than 8 years, the bright spot in Justin’s summers has been Children’s National Camps. That’s where he and other young people with a variety of health conditions can meet friends and relax.

“It’s nice because I get to bond with other kids who deal with similar struggles as me,” Justin says. “Camp is my happy place where I feel accepted.”

Last year was extra special. Justin participated in a six-month virtual peer leadership program and became a counselor-in-training. As a peer leader, he learned how to help other campers and serve as a listener, mentor and role model.

“I’ve noticed an increase in his independence and responsibility, which is a big deal,” says his mom, Jenn. “It has been remarkable to see his self-esteem improve, too.”

Camp has also been a respite for Jenn. “It is hard to leave a child with complex medical and social-emotional issues, but I feel completely comfortable with him at camp,” she added. “It is refreshing for my husband and me to get a break and reconnect away from the daily struggles.” 

During the rest of the year, Justin loves to produce music on his computer, play video games and hang out with his dog, Archie.

“This experience has really helped bring out Justin’s spark,” Jenn says. “Camp has been a real blessing for us.”