Michelle Sprenger remembers the day her family’s world changed forever.
It was back in 2005, and it was nearing her son Caleb’s 3rd birthday.
“Caleb is our second son and when he was born he completed our ‘perfect’ little family of four. We had our first son, Joshua, 21 months earlier and as they were so close in age, we intended the two little brothers to grow up together and be mates,” Michelle recalls.
“As a baby, we were delighted to discover Caleb’s calm and placid temperament. It was a striking contrast to Joshua who was always busy and on-the-go. But as our babies became toddlers, the gap in the milestones widened.
“Unlike his older brother who chatted and engaged in conversation, Caleb had not spoken a word at 18 months and he wouldn’t look in the direction of a pointed finger if we tried to show him something, like a bird flying in the sky.
“At two years old, we started speech and occupational therapy to help our little boy develop. After a year, just before Caleb’s 3rd birthday, the team of specialists diagnosed Caleb with Autism,” she says.
Fast-forward nine years, and an excited Caleb was carrying home a note from his Mackenzie State Special School chaplain, Danielle Turner. The note was about a new SU QLD camp, Special Needs Loop.
“Caleb has watched his big brother pack to go to a friend’s house for the day and for sleepovers. But this time, Caleb got an opportunity to pack a bag for himself and go on a camp just for him.”
“Caleb was so excited to be going – he tried to pack his bag days earlier than required and even helped put his case into the boot, ready to go! We have never seen him more eager and excited,” Michelle says.
“It was great to finally have a Christian camp available for the special needs children who may otherwise miss out on such an opportunity. More than anything, we have always wanted Caleb to be surrounded with Christian influence, learning about the wonderful world God has made.”
The camp ran over two days and one night in the September school holidays. It involved craft activities, cooking, board games, outdoor games, a disco, watching a movie, a trip to Gateway Baptist Kids Church, and a family BBQ.
“The purpose of the camp was to share with the students the message that they are special to God and that they matter,” Chappy Danielle says.
“The theme was ‘Treasure’. The campers decorated shoe boxes to look like treasure chests and they went on a hunt to find ‘precious’ items, like crowns, gold and jewels to put in their chest. They were given a mirror and told that whenever they want to know what is precious to God, they just need to look in the mirror. They are treasures to God,” Danielle says.
The camp was a major milestone for Caleb – this was the first time he’s been able to attend a camp independently of his parents.
“When we arrived to pick up Caleb, he was beaming from ear to ear. He was dancing and he grabbed my hand to show me the leaders who had quickly become his friends. Words fail to describe his happiness,” Michelle says.
“There are countless times when Caleb has watched his big brother pack to go to a friend’s house for sleepovers. This time, Caleb had an opportunity to pack a bag for himself and go on a camp just for him.
“This camp not only blessed Caleb incredibly, it blessed our family. We try to do the best we can under the circumstances but sometimes, without intending to, our focus is often on supporting Caleb. This was a very special opportunity for us to spend quality time with Joshua.”
Michelle is so thankful to supporters like you, who make camps like this possible.
“We are just one story in a myriad of testimonies. With all our hearts, we say a huge thank you for giving to such a purposeful mission field that has deeply touched the life of our family. The ripple effect of your giving could not be measured.”
New camps are always being developed to bring hope to those who need it. If you would like to support new camps, like the Special Needs Loop – either financially or as a volunteer – contact 1300 478 753.