RYAN TERRUSO: THE Y IS HIS HAPPY PLACE; ALWAYS FULLY ACCEPTED, A SECOND HOME
Kristine Terruso loves talking about her son Ryan’s Y experience. 15-year-old Ryan started coming the Y at age 2. Kristine and her husband, John work full-time and needed childcare for Ryan. Initially, Ryan started at an in-home daycare. After two years of that option, she enrolled Ryan in Y childcare at the Merrimack branch. “When we first visited the Y’s program, the kids and teachers were playing parachute games and he absolutely loved it.” (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the ever-popular parachute game: Children evenly spread out around the parachute and hold the edges. The children gently tug on the parachute, holding it low between knee level and the ground. On the count of three, in unison, the kids raise the chute upwards. It fills with air, rising up like a giant “mushroom.”)
Kristine shares that she realized at a young age Ryan was a having difficulty verbalizing his thoughts. “His mouth was moving faster than his brain. His Y teachers mentioned their concern to me. I appreciated their feedback,” she said. At age 4, through Y staff recommendation, Kristine connected with Reeds Ferry School in Merrimack and Ryan received special instruction. He started his day in Y childcare, then went to the school for early intervention with his developmental delays, then he came back to the Y. “I was a wreck. I followed the school bus from the Y to the school at first. He was so young to take a bus to and from the Y to school, but I was so happy with the support for Ryan. It was so great that I could trust that Ryan could be in Y childcare and be bussed to Reeds Ferry for additional services. ” Years later, Ryan was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. “His Y teachers have been great mentors and have cultivated him. There have been multiple people from the Y that he has looked up to,” she said.
As an only child, Ryan didn’t have siblings at home to learn from and play with. He is close with his cousins, but his mom was very aware of his difficulty meeting friends and getting close socially with other children. This was different for him at the Y. “At the Y everybody knows him. I remember when Ryan was 11 or 12. We went to a craft fair at the Y. Normally, he would have no interest in joining me at a craft fair, but he was eager to go, because it was at the Y. He ran into the building, because he knew there would be a lot of teachers and camp counselors that he was close to over the years. They all greeted him warmly. They all know Ryan,” she said.
Ryan’s 13 year Y journey has been well-rounded. From daycare, to Kindergarten. School’s Out to Quest. From Leaders to the LIT Program. Ryan was introduced to basketball at the Y at the age of 4 and one of Kristine’s fondest memories is of Ryan shooting hoops. He also played countless games of knock-out at the Y as a 4-year-old, using the ‘diaper shot’ underhand free-throws. “He nailed it shot-after-shot!” “Ryan has always been into sports. He loves soccer, baseball, really any sport with a ball.” Today he is finishing up his tenth season of Merrimack Youth Rec Soccer and currently serves as a baseball umpire in Merrimack, enjoying the sport from behind the diamond.
As soon as he was old enough, Kristine enrolled Ryan at Camp Sargent. “I’m an avid camper. Ryan was a Boy Scout. He loved the structured program at camp. It boosted his confidence to go there and he shined. At the age of 6, we were told he got in front of the entire assembly of campers and counselors and led them in song. At camp he got introduced to more sports, it got him outdoors, gave him confidence and he made lots of friends along the way,” Kristine shared. “Ryan is kind of a shy kid and camp turned him into this outgoing person that wasn’t afraid to get in front of a group and get crazy. He loved dressing up in costume for themed days for the kids.”
Before his first summer in Quest camp, Kristine was told by Ryan’s YMCA Teen Leaders Club advisor Larry Harding, “I see leadership qualities in your son. I think he would do well in Quest and I think he’s ready.” The program was a great success for Ryan. As an LIT, he utilized skills learned at the Y to volunteer in the YMCA Educational Academy at Camp Sargent, assisting students with fun programs after their remote learning.
Ryan will be in the Leaders-in-Training (LIT) program at Camp Sargent this summer. “He wants to be an LIT all summer. Last year, he was at Camp Sargent for the entire summer.” She added, “At the Y he is always accepted. The Y is home to him. And so is Camp Sargent. He knows the place like the back of his hand. This is where he wants to be, and what he wants to do. The counselors are so encouraging, always challenging him to try new things.”
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