Keith is a teenager who loves to cook. He plans to attend culinary school after he graduates high school. “He does a really good shrimp alfredo and loves to make homemade omelets and pizza for his younger siblings,” says his mom, Cleopatra.
Having fun in the kitchen has helped Keith get through some of life’s challenges. He has ADHD and neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors on nerve tissue. He gets frequent headaches. In the past, a learning impairment made school difficult. He also experienced separation anxiety from his mother.
Keith’s participation in Brainy Camps of Children’s National over the years also helped boost his confidence. The residential summer camps offer programs for kids with neurofibromatosis, epilepsy, heart disease, ADHD and other conditions. Keith was 9 when his Children’s National neurologist suggested he attend.
His mom says he appreciated the interaction with other kids who shared similar challenges. He loved the freedoms of summer camp and the thrill of go-kart racing, swimming and rock climbing. Before his camp experience, she says, he never would have believed he could swim, ride a horse, zipline or star in a skit.
This year, Keith worked as a counselor-in-training and hopes to spend the whole summer at camp next year as a counselor. “He’s a shy kid, but camp got him out of his comfort zone,” Cleopatra says. “He’s always so grateful to go. The women who run the program are angels on Earth. Weeks after camp, my son is still smiling.”
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