Facing Fears and Making Friends at Bradford Woods

JJ and Elijah

Rick and Mette Shepherd love spending time with their grandchildren and when the opportunity came for them to take them to camp, it was something they knew they wanted to do. The family first heard about Victory Lane Camp through 321Go Kids’ Rehab, where Elijah participates in therapy for his cerebral palsy.

“Brett (VLC Founder and lead therapist at 321Go Kids’ Rehab) talked to us about it and told us it would be a good experience for Elijah,” said Rick. “I just retired at the beginning of this year and thought there was no time like the present to go ahead and do it.”

Since Elijah was three months old, one of the family’s goals was to see Elijah be able to run and play like a typical child. While at camp, they saw this goal accomplished. Elijah was running with the other children on uneven ground, even playing tag.

“He has one foot that turns in, so he sometimes trips over his own feet. He did a great job of hanging with the kids, and none of the other kids viewed him differently. They interacted with him and just had fun,” Rick noted.

Elijah wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the Victory Lane Camp experience. Older brother JJ made friends with other children who were close to his age, and he also connected with Mike Brown during campfire times.

JJ had a breakthrough moment at camp involving the zip line. He knew he wanted to do the longer zip line, but battled some fear and anxiety about it. The team at Bradford Woods and several Backyard Mission Trip families worked with JJ, taking the process very slowly until he felt confident enough to take that step and zip across the extended line. He had a big cheering section as he conquered his fear.

“It was the most thrilling thing to see,” Rick expressed.

Rick was impressed with the people who manage the zip line and also the archery station staff. They guided Elijah through shooting a crossbow and JJ through shooting a crossbow and traditional bow.

“They took ample time to work with them, and there wasn’t any frustration,” he said. “They were really exceptional.”

Rick noticed that the two brothers seemed to get along better during camp. Elijah was able to cut loose and be a kid doing things that everybody was doing, and JJ was often beside him appreciating his brother and their newfound friends. Rick attributes much of their positive experience to the network of Backyard Mission Trip families.

“The way the Victory Lane Camp team picks missions families, I wouldn’t change any of that for the world,” Rick shared. “You get what is needed for the kids, and they interact so well.”