Our mothers play so many roles in our lives. They are our first teachers and first friends. They support, encourage and nurture us. And the case of 13-year old EliJay Hill, mom Tenika Doyle is also a trailblazer and superstar advocate.
Advocacy Early On
When EliJay was little, Tenika was relentless in seeking out support and services for her son, who is on the autism spectrum. When he was 7 years old, Tenika worked to get EliJay into the PNAP program at Loma Linda Hospital. Pediatric Neuro-Assessment Program (PNAP) is a “comprehensive assessment and diagnostic program developed to address the unique needs of preschool and school-aged children with academic or behavioral problems.” The doctors and specialists at PNAP were able to develop a unique multidisciplinary treatment plan for EliJay to help make strides in his development. And that he did!
As the years went by and EliJay moved through his elementary school years, Tenika saw changes in him. She began to notice signs of stress in her son. Due to bullying and issues with other children in school, EliJay began to lose some of his hair. At that moment Tenika felt she had to create a space for her son, and other children on the spectrum, to feel included and accepted.
Fond Memories Spark an Idea
When searching for social programs for EliJay, Tenika remembered fondly her childhood experiences of going to summer camp with her church. With that spark of an idea, Tenika founded her non-profit Chasing 7 Dreams! Chasing 7 Dreams’ first project was EliJay’s Kids with Autism Making Progress Camp, or E*Kamp for short.
What started as a one-day event in 2017, E*Kamp is now a week-long day camp! The camp is staffed by volunteers who are trained in working with kids on the autism spectrum. This was important to Tenika and Chasing 7 Dreams. She felt it was important to create an environment where kids with autism aren’t just understood, but celebrated! Activities included a sports day, arts and crafts, meeting first responders, a performance by The Great Y Circus, a live reptile show, and much more! This phenomenal camp will return to the Inland Empire in July of 2019. Chasing 7 Dreams is also working to expand their efforts to other areas in the future.
In her Own Words
We asked Tenika to tell us all about E*Kamp. Here is what she told us!
The goals for the camp are to provide a safe and affordable environment for kids with autism to experience the joys of camp! I want to continue blending kids with autism and typical kids at our camp, so they can learn from each other while raising awareness for anti-bullying.
My motivation was my son EliJay! Being a single mom, it was hard to find placement for him during summer break. I was looking for programs with staff trained to work with kids with autism. I didn’t want him to feel like the odd kid in the room or him feeling rejected that he didn’t fit in because he lacked communication. I did not find a program that fit his needs.
Kids with autism work so hard year-round going to school, with many having therapy after school. An ordinary day can feel like a challenge! So, I wanted to create this camp where they can learn, receive therapy, and have fun. I hope for many this is a life-changing experience.
One of the greatest gifts was that so many of our campers have stayed in touch after camp! At Chasing 7 Dreams we work to help keep them connected and engaged throughout the year because friendship is so important to our kids!
Congratulations to supermom Tenika and the wonderful team at Chasing 7 Dreams. You are truly making a difference for kids in the I.E.
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