By: Jana Jones
Zachary was only 11 years old when his mom, Stacey, was told “there is no way you can raise him, you won’t be able to, he has too many problems and difficulties”. But Stacey could not give up on her son, she could not lose him, so she kept searching for answers. Her relentless search brought her into contact with SOAR in the year 2000. Stacey was cautious and researched SOAR thoroughly, checked references, and traveled across the country together with Zach for their first visit and tour of SOAR. Zach loved it! His parents signed him up for two courses that summer. While one month away from her 11-year-old son seemed like a very long time, Stacey and her husband knew Zach needed that much time to receive the full benefit from participating at SOAR and learning the strategies, motivation, and tools taught.
Zach says that the first summer being around other kids, who like himself lived with ADHD, he
began to have a new perspective. Because of this, he was able to accept himself and others who are intelligent yet also learn differently. He didn’t just survive at SOAR, as he puts it, he THRIVED! He says he learned how to harness his brain activity in a positive way and even as he states it, bring it into “hyper-focus”. To this day (now 32 years old), he still uses the skills and strategies learned during his summers at SOAR.
When Zach returned to school after his first summer at SOAR, he found that he really cared about himself and others, and his school work. He also found that the methods learned at SOAR really did help him with school work. He returned to SOAR four more summers, spending the following summer also in North Carolina, the next in the Florida Keys course, the following with the Wyoming horse packing course, and the final in Colorado where he was able to climb Long’s Peak. While climbing Long’s Peak, a pivotal event occurred in his life. One of his teammates was having a hard time on the climb and fell behind. A SOAR staff instructor stayed back with that teammate — and Zach asked to stay back and help too! Though adding an additional 6 hours to the climb and forcing them to trail behind the rest of their group, the three of them completed the climb! Zach says for the first time in his life he became a leader and encourager to someone who, like himself, just needed extra time and help! Zach still feels pride today that as a result of the character and commitment he developed, in his final summer with SOAR he was invited into “ILS” (Intensive Leadership Seminar). ILS is SOAR’s program for recognizing good stewardship, dedication, and leadership.
Now an adult, Zach believes that participating in SOAR during the crucial years of his young teen life, molded him into the man he has become today: a hard worker, able to focus “1,000%”, accepting of himself for having a mind that works differently and accepting of others who have limitations or challenges. He knows his life could have turned out tragically if his mother had not found SOAR “just in time”. He has a great job, loves where he lives, is happily married, and is expecting his first child.
Both Zach and his mom are such believers in SOAR they wanted to reach out and share their story. They’ve worked hard, got help along the way, and overcame barriers. They could not have done it alone or without SOAR’s help.