Jimmy Has Much To Be Thankful For at Sunrise

“This food is SO delicious. I just love holiday foods! And next year, just think, I will be in a home eating Thanksgiving dinner with my new family and I can’t wait!” exclaimed Jimmy* last year as he celebrated Thanksgiving dinner at Sunrise’s Woodlawn Center, Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) in Danville. For 12-year-old Jimmy, who was one of 27 young men who lived at the Woodlawn campus, that holiday meal was a special memory. “This young man had never experienced a normal home environment, but his hope radiated about just wanting a family to love him,” explained Sunrise Woodlawn Center Program Director Lena Kline.

Jimmy’s road to hope and healing would not be an easy journey. He had been abused over the entire course of his life, living with his mother in communes in different states. “Due to the severity and length of his abuse, he developed a somewhat psychotic break that had allowed him to deal with his already altered reality,” shared Lena. “He seemed to live in a world of make-believe and robots and was far removed from reality. He had imaginary friends, an imaginary girlfriend, and would talk to them. This was his way to cope.”

Jimmy met criteria in his diagnoses for PTSD, ADHD, and also Autism Spectrum Disorder. In clinical supervision, it was discussed that his PTSD could be so severe that he had developed Autism-like symptoms to cope. But because he was so far removed from reality, it was difficult to know for sure.

Through therapeutic treatment and over time, “he began to develop the trust, feelings of safety, and willingness to share with his therapist more and more,” said Lena. “During his time here, we were able to see so many strengths and talents from this young man.”

Those talents and strengths include drawing and creativity, dancing, engineering and inventing (he loves to build Lego creations and imagine how they could be purposed in real life), and empathy.

In addition, Jimmy has progressed in other ways. “He is able to ask for what he needs now and talk about his feelings. When he came to us he couldn’t hold a conversation with others,” said Lena. “Also, he has done well in school and is able to make real friends instead of having conversations with imaginary friends!”

Today, Jimmy is residing in his foster-to-adopt home. “All staff is celebrating Jim’s success as one of the most powerful transformations we have seen. We have actually cried in meetings and laughed out of joy about how this year he will get to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his family!” shared Lena. “This child could find no placement in the state except for us, and now he is living his life. It really is a wonderful testament of what we all do at Sunrise. We all help children to be able to be children again.”

This Thanksgiving, Jimmy will have much to be thankful for, due in large part to the Sunrise teams at Woodlawn Center, PRTF and Foster Care. And Sunrise is thankful to you. Because of your generosity and support, we are helping to create even more special memories for Sunrise boys and girls like Jimmy.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

Written by David Lyninger, Sunrise Children’s Services Associate Director of Communications

Kait Flora