When Scott and Sharon Hawkins traveled to the Ukraine in October 2001, they were planning to adopt a little baby girl. Upon their arrival, they learned that the girl had already been placed and they then felt God leading them to adopt Bradley, a 15 month old baby that had been abandoned by his mother at the orphanage.
After their older son Taylor was born, they were unable to have more children. They were excited about adopting a younger brother for Taylor and providing a better life for Bradley. They soon found out that they were not prepared for what was coming next.
Chaos and Upheaval
At age 3, Bradley was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD), a condition in which a child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. RAD may develop if the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met.
Children with RAD thrive on chaos and upheaval. “Our family life was out of control,” Sharon recalls. “We couldn’t go out to eat, attend special church functions or do something as simple as visiting our friends. We couldn’t even go on vacation. Bradley would act out at these events and make it uncomfortable for everyone. Even at home, he would try to control and manipulate through misbehavior and turmoil. The more that we would show him affection, the more he would push us away. He was tearing our family apart!”
“Unless you live with a child with RAD, you have no idea what it’s like,” Scott relates. “Even our closest friends and family members would comment on our supposed lack of parenting skills. People can be very judgmental. We felt very alone!”
Their situation felt hopeless. They tried numerous therapies and various methods to get help. Nothing seemed to work. They didn’t know what else to do.
A Gleam of Hope
Then one day, help came in an unexpected way. At work, Scott was sharing their struggles with a coworker who suggested giving Fair Play Camp School a call. What did they have to lose? They got in contact with a family worker, Phil Hollinger.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” they recall. “Bradley was capable of being on his best behavior to control a situation. Taylor was afraid that he would be able to deceive Phil into thinking that everything was okay. We quickly saw that Phil could see through the smokescreen and understood what Bradley was trying to do.”
The Hawkins decided to give camp a try and Bradley agreed to go. In the fall of 2013, he joined the Pioneers. Soon after arriving, the group left for a five day hiking trip. “That was the hardest thing I ever did physically,” Bradley recalls. “It showed me how out of shape I was.”
Bradley would experience many more difficult lessons in camp. “I thought it would be easier than it was,” he recalls.” He began to learn how to be open and honest, trust other people and accept responsibility for his actions. It was a difficult struggle at times and he reacted badly in many situations. For Bradley, hard physical work was very therapeutic.
From Bully to Servant
Phil recalls that when Bradley arrived at camp he was very talkative and overbearing. “He was constantly talking about himself and had the answers for everyone else’s problem,” Phil remembers. “He would dominate conversations – especially during problem solving discussions and pow-wow in the evenings. He was unwilling to listen or accept advice from others.”
“Towards the end of his time at camp, we began so see a major shift in his attitude,” Phil continues. “He began to listen. He started to put others first and give back to the group. When a new boy would join the group, Bradley would take him under his wing, showing him how things were done and help him become adjusted to camp. He became okay with himself – no longer feeling the need to be the center of attention. We watched him transform from being a bully to a becoming a servant.”
“You always know that camp has your back,” comments Scott. “You always know that they are only looking out for the best for your child. You can be open and honest with the staff because you know they understand your situation. They made us feel safe. Camp was a lifesaver for our family.”
Tools for Life
After graduating, Bradley has been a different person. He is doing well in school, making friends and even joined the Boy Scouts.
But it hasn’t been perfect. As we were preparing to conduct the interview for this article, Scott almost canceled it due to some problems they were having with Bradley. The difference now is that they have the tools to work through problems.
Like at camp, the family has a pow-wow every evening where they discuss the day – what went well and what could have went better. They also discuss what will be happening the next day. “Camp is still an accountability partner for Bradley,” Scott explains. “We ask, what would the chief say? How would your group respond to this behavior? We are constantly using the principles that we learned from camp to solve problems.”
For older brother Taylor, it’s like having a new brother. “Now when he makes a bad decision, he stops to think about it,” he observes. “We are able to have deep conversations as brothers about meaningful things. God definitely used Fair Play to change Bradley!”
“We are still on a journey. Every day we are committed to continued growth,” Scott comments. “Camp was a God-send. We have no idea where we would be without it. There is not a better place in the world where we could have sent Bradley for help! There is not a better support system for families.”
Thank You for Helping the Hawkins Family
“I want to say thank you to all of Fair Play’s supporters for making it possible for our family to get help,” Sharon adds. “It’s been life changing for our family as well as many others. You are sowing into these young men and changing generations. You are having an impact on how they will parent, be a husband and influence the kingdom of heaven. This experience will give these boys tools to work with for the rest of their life.”