Everett Forbes found a new way to make friends and socialize over the past year, despite the challenges of limited in-person events. He began attending virtual Teen Connect Groups in early 2020 and now finds the gatherings a regular part of his schedule where he gets to “do fun things” with other teens.
“Everett used to be apprehensive about participating in the connect groups. But they’ve been fantastic, connecting him with kids outside of school and are something fun to do that just he gets to participate in. After every one, he is brighter and happier,” says his mom Emily.
His parents Emily and Dan both note the increased level of independence Everett is gaining, something most kids crave as they get older. And a big reason he decided to attend Camp Oz for the first time in 2018.
“Well, I loved how I was able to meet new people as well as how it was a sleep-away camp. I finally got some independence from my parents,” says Everett.
However, it wasn’t an easy decision for the Forbes family to make. Everett had never been away from home on his own and has physical disabilities, making them unsure how he’d handle some of the typical everyday living tasks. They left the decision up to Everett, and he decided to go.
“It was the first time he could be a kid, not a kid with epilepsy or a kid with differences. He had a blast! He still talks about the zip line and how scary it was but how proud he was for doing it. And he sang! On his own! In front of people! He made friends who he’s been able to keep in touch with. He did things he just hasn’t had the confidence to do outside of the camp setting,” says Emily.
The last few years have been big ones for Everett, who at 15 years old just passed his three-year seizure-free mark. His journey began as a two-year-old when he was officially diagnosed with epilepsy.
“We’ve been through a number of medications, spent some time on the ketogenic diet, and Everett had brain surgery. And, of course, there are many everyday activities that epilepsy makes harder. Like just riding the school bus. But in the process, we’ve also discovered a wonderful community of people who know this condition and care for those who live with it,” says Dan.
The epilepsy community has been part of the Forbes family’s journey since they first joined the annual walk more than ten years ago. It’s now continued with Everett’s involvement in social events like Connect Groups and Camp Oz, which has his parents using the words independence, confidence, and fun to describe his growth.
Although a virtual Camp Oz will be a new experience for campers this summer, Everett shows that growth happens when embracing new opportunities. He was uncertain about Camp Oz in 2018 and Teen Connect Groups after, but thrived with his parents’ full support.