Safety in Numbers (and in Community)

November 3, 2017 | Family Resource Navigator

“It Takes a Village” is more than just the theme for this year’s VIA Gala. It’s a formula for delivering desperately needed services and support to families.

Hilary Nagel is VIA’s Family Resource Navigator. Her job title tells you everything you need to know about the work she does.  She’s a guide through challenging waters for the families VIA serves. Sometimes that means lending a sympathetic ear, sometimes it means providing information, other times it means calling in the cavalry for help.

Recently, Hilary and Facilities Manager Tim Hale enlisted donations from a local church, and the skills of a local contractor, to create a safe place to play for a James C. Hormel School student (it also provided some much-needed peace of mind for his worried mom).

Camryn is an active 7-year-old with a particular challenge that is common among kids with autism—he wanders. This behavior (also called “elopement”) is shared by up to 50% of children Camryn’s age on the autism spectrum. Traffic injuries, or deaths, or drownings, or close calls with any of those nightmares, are far too frequent.

According to Camryn’s mother, Ashley, close calls have happened more than once. The family lives just off a paved, two-lane road in a rural part of Albemarle County. “Cars fly up and down this road,” she says. “He’s gotten out of the yard and run right down the middle of the road. A million thoughts just run through your head.”

The lack of a good fence meant danger to the child and anxiety for the mom. So Hilary and Tim put out the call to local civic groups and local contractors, to try to find a solution. “We tried all sorts of things to find support for this family,” says Hilary.

Help came from the congregation of Crozet United Methodist Church, and their Pastor Sarah Evancho. The church generously agreed to fund the purchase of a fence for the yard that would give Camryn and his brother a safe, secure place to play. Tim Hale put out the call among his connections in the contracting and construction trade, and found Wayne Orme, of Orme Fencing was willing to get the fence installed.

The result is a gleaming new chain link fence that provides plenty of safe play space for Camryn and his brother.  “I love it,” says Ashley, with a big smile. Her favorite feature is the lock – easy to use but out of reach of young hands, which she says gives her an added sense of security in her home.

“The challenges of autism are difficult enough for families, without the fears and anxieties that come with elopement issues,” says VIA’s Executive Director Ethan Long. “This is exactly why a group of donors helped us fund the Family Resource Navigator position. Their generosity has made it possible for VIA to provide added services that can make a huge difference for families with special needs.”

“We are so grateful to Wayne, and to the congregation at Crozet United Methodist Church for the difference they have made for this family,” says Hilary. “It warms your heart to see those two little boys running and playing in safety.”