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Wilson learned a lot as an and Friend
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Emily Wilson volunteers at special needs camps for Challenged Child and Friends. - photo by Tom Reed

Emily Wilson began spending her days at Challenged Child and Friends when she was just 6 weeks old.

The brown-eyed baby girl had no diseases or disorders. She was every bit as bright and responsive as her mom, Tracy Wilson, a teacher at Challenged Child, had hoped she would be.

“I was the ‘and Friends’ part,” Emily Wilson said.

The Flowery Branch High School senior said she feels she learned bigger lessons at Challenged Child than most kids in regular preschools. As she played on the tire swing and rode bikes with children who have disabilities, she learned lessons in patience, kindness and understanding.

“I feel like a lot of people think when people have disabilities, they can’t do anything, but that’s not the case,” Wilson said. “I feel like I’m a lot more understanding that we all have a lot of strengths and weaknesses. We all have our own challenges.”

Wilson’s early experiences at Challenged Child led her to volunteer at the preschool’s field day last year with her school’s National Honor Society. She also discovered how tough it is to care for and teach special needs students when she volunteered at Hall County schools summer session for students with disabilities.

This past summer, she spent a week volunteering at Joni and Friends, a special needs camp in Flat Rock, N.C., that gives parents a break from the 24-hour a day job of caring for a child with disabilities.

“It makes me realize a lot of who I am comes from there and the lessons I learned,” Wilson said of her days at Challenged Child.

“The biggest thing I took away from it is not to underestimate people,” she said. “You never know what challenged people can rise to. You never what people are capable of until you see them in action.”

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