Every night was chaos in the Caldwell household. Six-year-old Brad would react violently to a situation and the only way to keep him from hurting himself and others was to hold him tightly. Often when Bob thought he had calmed down, he would relax his hold and Brad would immediately run out the door and down the street. There were many evenings spent looking for Brad in the neighborhood. Something had to change!
This story begins a few years ago when Bob and Sarah Caldwell began to feel some restlessness in their lives. As the parents of four beautiful kids, they were the recipients of many blessings and started to feel God asking them to enter into lives of those less fortunate.
They began to attend an inner city church in Spartanburg that focused on children’s ministry. One boy in the program touched Sarah’s heart—four-year-old Nyjerious. Sarah would often ride the bus to make sure he was ready to go. There she met his brother Brad. “We really felt God drawing us to this family,” Sarah recalls.
It was during this time that the boys’ mother fell into some difficulties and it became necessary to find other places for the kids to live. She requested that the two boys live with the Caldwell’s.
A Nightly Struggle
Life quickly became very chaotic. Nightly, Brad would violently act out. “Sometimes he would run away two or three times per night,” Bob remembers. “We would drive around the neighborhood looking for Brad. After finding him and thinking he was settled, he would run off again.”
“It is only through God’s help that we were able to get through it,” Sarah commented. “There were times that he was misbehaving so badly that we would send him outside until he would settle down. It was so bad. Our house was being destroyed.”
He was out of control but at the same time he was upset with himself. He would become fearful, saying things like “I’m a terrible person, I’m going to be a terrible dad.” One night was so bad that they feared for his safety and took him to the emergency room. They placed him in a psychiatric hospital for a few days.
Out of Desperation Came Hope
Bob and Sarah finally reached the point where they couldn’t deal with it any longer. “The one incident that showed that something needed to be done happened one morning while taking our kids to school,” Bob remembers. “I asked Brad to fasten his seatbelt and he refused. Fifteen minutes passed and he continued to stubbornly decline. The other kids were getting upset with him and me because they were going to be late. Finally I decided to get out of the car, and fasten the belt for him. No sooner had I returned to the driver’s side, he took off and I ended up chasing him around the car. I then realized that we couldn’t provide the time that Brad needed. Our family life had to go on.”
Sarah started researching group homes but many of those were not willing to accept Brad with his behavior issues. Someone suggested they consider Fair Play and they decided to check it out.
Bob instantly felt that Fair Play was the answer. “Brad loves the outdoors,” Bob explained. “Camp looked like the ideal place for Brad to deal with his issues while enjoying the outdoor setting. We felt like the Lord directed us to Fair Play.”
“When Paul Graber first visited, he described how camp dealt with issues by stopping an activity and circling up to solve a problem, I knew that this was exactly what Brad needed.” He continued. “As a family we couldn’t do this as life had to carry on for the other children.”
“I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I was for that day,” Sarah comments. “We felt God’s peace on our situation while talking to Paul. Camp was exactly what we needed. I finally felt hopeful for the first time in a long while.”
With Brad at camp, things at home quickly settled down. “We needed that,” Sarah remarked. “Things had been so frenzied for the previous three years.”
“Camp takes something from unmanageable chaos to manageable chaos.” Bob explains. “It’s still hard. Getting him to go to bed is still difficult. He continues to struggle with following directions. But it doesn’t end up with the same outbursts. He is not running away and he no longer has to be restrained for up to two hours.”
“In the past he lacked a lot of self-confidence,” Sarah continues. “But camp has helped improve his self-esteem. At school he has gained self-confidence through sports. His science teacher in particular has taken a special interest in him and has spoken a lot of truth into his life. God has brought numerous people into our lives to surround us and support us with these boys.”
“We thought we could bring these boys into our home and change them with a lot of love,” Bob comments. “But the hurts and scars were so deep that we quickly realized that we needed help. God was going to have to change these boys and He used camp to help us. In the end, it is us who have been changed the most.”
Exactly What Was Needed
“We cannot express our gratefulness enough for how camp has helped us. Camp is a most loving and structured place that provides what boys like Brad needs. I have so much admiration for the staff, especially the chiefs. And, they have been just as helpful after camp. They continue to be interested in our journey.”
“Camp provided the time and attention for Brad that we couldn’t. They could take the time to help him deal with his issues. If he acted out, the whole group would stop what they were doing, circle up and deal with the problem at hand. That was what I was trying to do with the car thing, but you just can’t do that in a family environment. That’s the sort of thing that has brought change.”
“Thank you so much to those of you who support Fair Play with your time, prayers and finances. There is no way that we could have made it by ourselves. God has used camp to help bring healing to our family.”