Celebrating Special Children
About the Guest
Rest for the weary. Cameron Doolittle and Brenda Solomon come together to talk about Jill's House, the respite care facility that's giving much needed rest to families in the Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland area. Founded by Brenda and her husband, Lon, after they experienced the need for respite firsthand while caring for their daughter Jill, Jill's House provides overnight programs and weeklong day camps to children with special needs ages 6 to 17 and their siblings.
Cameron Doolittle and Brenda Solomon talk about Jill’s House, the respite care facility that’s giving much needed rest to families.
Bob: Brenda, I’m wondering if you have a favorite Jill’s House story since it opened two years ago now.
Brenda: Oh, wow, the favorite Jill’s House story. I just love—Cameron sends updates which I sit and I just, tears—many, many months. One of the stories—and I was riding home from taking care of my dad, and somebody was in the car with me. We were reading that update. It just made me cry.
One lady was diagnosed with cancer. She was a single parent, and I never even thought of this, Jill’s House serving this kind of a person, but she schedules her chemo so her child—
Brenda: —can have a stay at Jill’s House. There are all sorts of stories like that, that you go, “Well, I never even thought about that.” I mean I never thought about that, that they would need help; but you think about it: A single parent going through chemo. What are they to do? So, she said, “I’m so thankful there’s a Jill’s House, and my child can come stay here; and that’s how I plan my treatments.”
Bob: Cameron, you write those newsletters. Do you have a favorite story?
Cameron: I do. We go out to the schools; and through the schools, we met a family. In this family, the dad had been having to sleep in his child’s bed every night for the last eight years—the child was nine—just to soothe the child. When he heard about our overnight program, he signed his child up for it really quickly thinking, “Well, maybe I can get a night of sleep.”
So his child stayed with us that first night. He didn’t sleep real well, but he slept. The most amazing part was that—well, a couple things. The dad the next morning called before he had even heard how it’d gone and said, “We want to sign up for more of this because I like sleeping,” but then, that night, his son came home and went to his own room at home and closed the door and went to bed.
So, he learned independence at Jill’s House. That’s a dad that’s sleeping better every night. That’s a family whose life is much better than it was before.
Another family that I like, there’s a boy named Arturo; and his mom, Sylvia, is a single mom. She heard about our program, and she cleans houses for a living. So, she didn’t have funding lined up, but she said “Oh, well, I’m going to clean a couple extra houses, so I can have some funds to bring the child to Jill’s House.” We heard about the need. We were able to connect her to programs that helped pay for these kinds of stays for her son. Now, her child is a regular with us.
He has progressed markedly since coming to be with us. She is now trying to figure out how to get connected with the Spanish-speaking ministry through the church, and she says that we’re God’s angels sent to bring relief to her family.
These kinds of things are happening. There are families that are being transformed by God through this ministry, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Bob: Brenda, I have to ask you one more question. That is, somebody listening who goes, “We have this family in our church. They’ve got a special needs child”—or maybe somebody at school—“and I’d love to do something, but I don’t know where to start.” How would you coach that person? What’s the first thing you do?
Brenda: Wow, to impact and have an impact on that family?
Bob: Yes, just to reach out in love.
Bob: What do you do?
Brenda: The first thing I would do is look at the siblings. I mean I felt so guilty all the time because my boys were without me, and I couldn’t be with them. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. I thought so many times, “I wish somebody would just call up and say, ‘Will you go out to the park? You want to come to the park? Do you want to go play basketball? Do you want to go to McDonald’s? Come with our family. We’re going here, we’re going there.’” Just include them. They need to be included.
These—that’s the biggest thing you could do for a parent. Release some of that guilt that they can’t spend time with their other siblings because they are spending so much time with this child with a disability.
Dennis: When you love my kids—
Brenda: Oh, that speaks—
Dennis: —you love me.
Dennis: You love me.
Earlier, Brenda, I read Romans 8:28, and I know you believe this, but I want you to comment on it. I think it’s become evident that it’s true, but I just want you to comment how it’s been true in your life. Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” How have you seen all things working together for good?
Brenda: I—it hasn’t come easily. It has been painful, and it’s not what I would have chosen; but once I turned Jill over to the Lord and I said, “Use her life in a powerful way”—and seeing these ministries to hundreds of families in our community that would no way have been reached before, I just think, “Thank You, Lord, for using my daughter, Jill. Thank You.”
Yes, there are many times I wish—I dreamed of going—having her go to the prom, go to the mall with her, go to lunch with her, do all those fun things that other children are doing at this age; but when in the light of eternity, what’s going to really matter? This is what’s going to matter—just watching what she’s doing for the Kingdom of God and loving these families.
Even as we were coming into Little Rock and the plane was coming down, I said, “I’ve never been to Little Rock before.” I said, “Jill got us here.” I’m here because of Jill. (Laughter) It’s just constantly reminding me that God is using this girl’s life.
Dennis: There are a lot of lessons that come out of your story. One is the family you were raised in taught you the Scripture. How could they have known that they were equipping you to be able to handle a hurricane? I mean a massive storm that will last a lifetime.
Dennis: A second great lesson is that we need one another. Nobody was intended to do life just by themselves. They were designed to do life with others and to admit their need and to say, “Help”—
Dennis: —“I need help.” I think the third one is also really clear with an exclamation point. There are listeners who are hearing this story and finding out about Jill’s House, and God’s already broken their hearts. They’ve already either had a family member or perhaps in their family—they’ve found themselves in this situation. They know firsthand what it’s like, and they’ve wanted to do something, but they don’t know what to do.
Jill’s House is willing to answer a question or two that a listener might have about how he or she could do something in and through their church in their community.
Bob: In fact, we’ve got on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com a link to the Jill’s House website, so folks can find out more about what you guys are doing.
Bob: But we also have information available if you’d like to look at ways that you could help. Maybe it’s just a family you know who’s got a special needs son or daughter, and you’d like to find a way to minister to them and to help them. We’ve got suggestions for that. Or maybe you’d like to do something at your church or in your community, something on a bigger scale. Again, get information when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let us recommend to you as well a book called Unexpected Journey written by our friends Joe and Cindi Ferrini. They are parents of a special needs son who is now in his late twenties. They share about their experience of raising a special needs child—have some great insights. Again, their book is called Unexpected Journey, and you can order from us at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY and request a copy of the book. We’re happy to send it out to you.
1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”; or get more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Andy Comisky joins us to talk about how God moved him out of the gay community and into a place where he’s married, where he’s a dad, and where he is trying to help others who are wrestling with the same things he’s had to wrestle with throughout his life. I hope you can join us for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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