For Cyndi and Kai Johnson, the thought of raising a child with Down syndrome seemed overwhelming. When their daughter Rebecca was born, however, Down syndrome “turned out to be the easy part,” Cyndi described. Rebecca was later diagnosed with a genetic syndrome that creates a variety of health challenges which has required a dedicated medical team, multiple medications a day, and several surgeries.
After contacting Tiffanny Youngquist, assistant director at Victory Lane Camp, about attending a summer camp session in 2014, one of those surgeries prevented them from participating. The Johnsons didn’t give up though and kept in touch with Tiffanny. Finally, after three years of staying in contact with VLC, they were able to experience camp for the first time last summer.
Not sure what they were signing up for, the surprises and amazement began with the initial welcome as they were driving in to camp.
“When we pulled in, there must have been 50 people in these orange shirts just cheering and clapping. It was incredible,” Cyndi shared. “We don’t get joyful welcome committees. We get people looking at us wondering ‘what are you doing here?’ It was such an unexpected surprise. It was truly an overwhelming moment for me. I had forgotten what it was like to have people happy to see us. They had me at hello. I was all in from that moment.”
The Johnsons continued to be amazed by what they learned and how camp operates. Having no idea there was such a thing as “Team Johnson” prepared and waiting for them, they were wowed by meeting the Muncy family.
One unique way that the Johnsons felt especially connected was through the pairing of their daughter Leah and Madison the Muncy’s youngest daughter. Cyndi stated, “Leah’s always kind of figured things out for herself. They were instant friends and got along so well. That fact that we had been matched up with a family with a daughter her age was amazing.”
The excitement continued with the introduction of occupational therapist Lyn Wendling. Cyndi described how Lyn helped teach Team Johnson to adapt almost every activity and the environment to Rebecca’s needs.
“Usually it’s me on the fly, trying as a mom to figure things out with her,” Cyndi said. “Lyn was fantastic. Rebecca got to participate in every activity.”
After their experience together at camp, the Johnson family plans to continue their involvement in VLC. This summer they will attend the June camp session in Martinsville, Indiana. They are even giving back to the VLC community by providing a meal for the serving families during their training day.
After years of attempting to attend a camp, the Johnson family was finally able to have their life-changing experience. They’re looking forward to being involved throughout the years and would encourage anyone who’s remotely interested to check it out and learn more. Cyndi urged, “I don’t see how anybody could observe what happens at Victory Lane and not be moved and inspired by it.”