From Latham parent Ann Gurney
My son Dylan dreams of becoming a firefighter. He wants to be a hero and save lives. Dylan is a Patriots fan, a loving friend and brother, and an expert on trains and railroads. He also has Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and is a student at Latham Centers’ residential school.
Like many parents raising a child with special needs, I was overprotective. PWS is a life-long, life-threatening condition. I always believed that my love for my son was his greatest protection – a giant forcefield that would shield him from harm. I cared for him. I advocated for him. I wanted the best for him, and yet despite my fierce devotion and love, he was unhappy. Before coming to Latham, Dylan was lonely and sad. He did not have a single friend. The lack of food security at his public school caused him tremendous anxiety and weight gain, and his behavior reflected the anxiety he felt. I was concerned about keeping him safe and healthy. I knew in my heart that Dylan needed and deserved more, but the decision to move him out of our home and into residential treatment was agonizing. However, I have learned that sometimes the most difficult decisions can produce the greatest results.
I could never have imagined how transformative Latham would be for Dylan. In the two years since Dylan was admitted to Latham Centers, he has lost 80 pounds. He is thriving. Dylan tells others, “I can run and play now. It used to be hard for me to walk. I have learned a lot about healthy lifestyle choices. I exercise and I love Chef Paul’s tomato soup.” He is a football player! His team, the Latham Hawks, recently competed in the Special Olympics on the Patriots’ home field at Gillette Stadium. He is a math tutor to the younger Latham students, and finally, at age 19, he has a best friend. This has been a lifelong wish of his. He told me, “I have wanted to have a best friend my entire life. Before I came here, I never had a friend – someone who stepped up and wanted me. Now I have friends, and I have nice teachers and clinicians. My life at Latham is so much better than before. My teacher Meghan believes that I am smart. She made me believe that I am smart and that I can achieve and she also helps me to have coping mechanisms when I feel stressed.”
Dylan was recently asked about his greatest achievement. He said, “My greatest achievement is that I am happy. Being happy makes me capable of achieving so much more. I feel safe. At my old school people were mean to me. No one is mean to me at Latham. My mom knew that Latham would be a perfect fit for me.”
You may never be faced with the decision to place your child in residential treatment. You may never have a family member who struggles like Dylan or who requires such an intense level of support and around-the-clock supervision – and yet you give! Your generosity fuels the vital programs that foster independence, self-confidence, vocational opportunity and belonging for Latham’s children and adults.
Won’t you please make an end-of-year gift today so that every individual at Latham Centers continues to receive the care they need to succeed and adapt in an ever changing and challenging world?
“My greatest achievement is that I am happy. Being happy makes me capable of achieving so much more. I feel safe.” - Dylan
On behalf of Dylan and the children, adults and families that Latham Centers serves, thank you and warm wishes for health and happiness in the New Year.