“I am proud to be Luke’s best friend, and I hope I make more friends like him.” –Bryce Youngquist, age 7
Friendships formed between children have the power to impact the people around them.
This is what happened with the Youngquist and Miller families.
David and Tiffanny Youngquist, along with their four children, Dylan, Jadyn, Skylar, and Bryce moved to New Castle a few years ago. David is a local recruiter for the United States Marines, and Tiffanny is the assistant director of Victory Lane Camp.
As a family, they have all been on three Backyard Mission Trips. Jadyn helped develop the Teens In Mission (TIM) program introduced at the 2015 Pace Lap Camp. Dylan and Jadyn have both served as TIMs.
The involvement of the Youngquist children led to a lasting connection with the Miller family.
Doug and Brenda Miller and their sons Connor and Luke have been involved with Victory Lane Camp since the beginning. Luke is on the autism spectrum and communicates nonverbally. Brett Fischer, founder of Victory Lane Camp, has been Luke’s therapist since Luke was four. In addition to being a Victory Family, Brenda is on the pit crew and hosts moms’ weekends, and they are planning to serve as a Backyard Mission Trip Family.
Brenda describes Victory Lane Camp as a community where “people get you and love you. What the struggles are, what the joys are, what the gift your child is. They get it. It’s not just acceptance. It’s an embrace. There’s a difference. They embrace who you are as a family. Not just your special needs kids— all of them.”
Their experience with the Youngquist family began when Jadyn and Luke were paired at the 2015 Family and Marriage Enrichment Camp. Jadyn hung out with Luke, ate with him, and loved him. They were instant friends. Jadyn believes her friendship with Luke encouraged her to form more friendships with children who have special needs.
The family friendships continued at the Pace Lap Camp last year when Dylan was Luke’s TIM. Dylan had this to say about their connection, “I have made a close and personal friend. When I think of Luke I don’t think of a kid with special needs, I think of one of my best friends.”
Bryce, wanting to be like his older siblings, followed Luke and Dylan around. He began eating lunch and hanging out with them. “They got this bond that wherever we were, Bryce would be there. They just connected… Bryce became Luke’s best friend at camp,” Brenda explained.
As Tiffanny recalled, “It was this friendship that caught the attention of all of the parents and encouraged the friendship between the Millers and Youngquists as whole families.”
Since the connection among the children was made, the Millers and Youngquists have continued their friendship through Victory Lane Camp events, sharing meals, serving together on the Camp Programming Pit Crew, and even having a sleepover for Bryce and Luke.
Through this bond, the Millers and the Youngquists found an unconditional love and respect for each other. “I love what being friends with the Millers has taught me. Doug and Brenda are truly an inspiration to me and I cherish the friendship we have. I hope it continues to grow,” expressed Tiffanny.
In the same way, Brenda said, “I don’t think there’s any other family on the planet where all of the members have bonded in that way with Luke. They want to serve and help. And they just get Luke. There’s something special about the Youngquists. They’re an awesome family.”
Each family continues to see positive growth within its members. David explained that this friendship has helped him to understand that families with children who have special needs often go through the same struggles. Brenda shared that watching the Youngquist children befriend Luke has helped Connor grow in confidence and appreciation for how special his brother is. She goes on to say, “I have learned to appreciate how much of a blessing Luke is to other people besides our family. Instead of sheltering people from him, the Youngquists opened my eyes to what Luke has to offer.”
Skylar sums it up well: “I have made special friends that are different and I think different is good.”