My son, Jacob, is an adorable 5 year old with a great sense of humor. Like most boys his age, he loves the rides at Canada’s Wonderland and funny noises.
Unlike most kids, Jacob can’t sit by himself; he can’t walk, can’t eat and can’t speak. But when he’s with his teachers and therapists at school, the only focus is on what he can do and what his latest achievements have been.
The first few years of Jacob’s life are like very blurry images in my mind. It was a very difficult time, especially when we didn’t know what was wrong with him. One of the clearest memories I have of that time was walking into Zareinu for the first time. I came to check out the Infant Intervention Program to see whether it would be appropriate for Jacob. This stands out, in my mind, as one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The staff could not have been warmer or more welcoming but all I could focus on were the wheelchairs and funny-looking equipment in the hallways. I remember not wanting to stay. I also remember realizing that Jacob needed to come and benefit from what they were offering.
Jacob started coming to Zareinu when he was 16 months old. Because he has a weak immune system, we were worried that his exposure to other kids would be very dangerous for him. Ellen understood this and set aside toys that were for Jacob’s exclusive use while he was in the program.
Jacob graduated from the infant program and moved into the nursery classroom where he has been for the past 3 years. Jacob gets so much love, attention and therapy, more than I could describe. His teachers joke that he should have a pager because he spends so much time out of the classroom, either having 1:1 therapy or zooming around the halls in his powerwheelchair and walker.
The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” is so true for us. The staff at Zareinu have become part of our family. They share our joy at Jacob’s accomplishments, worry with us when he is sick, and for the past 2 years, celebrate his birthdays with us at our home.
Jacob is an inspiration to so many around him. He works harder in a day than most people do in a week, and he never gets frustrated. He tries so hard and gets really excited when he masters a task. Jacob gets the opportunity to learn, interact with other kids and staff and really thrive at school.
When I pick him up at the end of the day, I don’t notice the wheelchairs in the hall anymore. I only notice the big smile on my son’s face.