Episode 38 of HatRadio! is a show about a loving couple, two people who built upon their relationship, to the extent that they launched a dream together, this past summer – a camp for children with autism.
My guests for this show are Shawn Kendal and Shawna Ackerman – affectionately called ‘The Shawns’. I have known Shawn for 30 years and recently interviewed his father, Dr. Saul Kendal on episode 32 of HatRadio!. I only met Shawna prior to the show (although she says we once met), and quickly determined she is a fireball, committed to developing her own soul and those of others. They are a special couple. At mark 14:12 of the show, Shawna said, with tears in her eyes, that Shawn is the man of her dreams.’
There is much to say about the Shawns. Like all of personkind, they have had their challenges. Shawn lost two brothers, one to a car accident and the second to illness. Shawna’s brother took his own life. Shawn has a daughter, Rachel, 21, who is high on the autistic spectrum. Shawna has two children who are profoundly deaf.
But here’s the thing, and you’ll hear this during the interview. Both of them are incredibly positive about life. While Shawn says he has moments of bitterness about having a daughter who has never uttered a word to him, at the 29:59 mark of the show, he said, “she’s incredible”, and added he and his daughter understand each other in other ways, in very beautiful ways. My dear friend, Shawn, also said at 38:00, “Rachel is a pure soul”. Shawna responded at 34:30 mark, when I asked her if she ever felt her children were lacking, ‘absolutely not’ and said proudly her daughter is a dancer and son a DJ. Both my guests agreed that their children have brought a lot in life, to many. Now that is very cool!
The camp the Shawns started from scratch is called THE KARMA COUNTRY CAMP (www.karmacountrycamp.com). They described it as affordable, as an unstructured environment with structure. What they mean is their campers – about 40 this summer between 12 and 20 – were presented with activities from trampoline jumping to board games like monopoly and allowed to do what they wanted. The idea was to socialize the participants, have them interact and make friends. This can be a challenge with people who have autism, however when worked at, as the Shawns did, change can happen. And indeed, it did.
Shawn said the campers made them laugh their heads off. One young man only spoke a word at a time, and from time to time would run into the activity area and yell, ‘scotch’. Whatever that meant, it came out funny and the campers and staff roared. Shawna explained that she, Shawn and the staff would look for the thing they could uncover, the mystery of their camper’s soul, that when understood could help the camper enjoy themselves and relax. One such mystery was recognizing in a male camper that he would push himself hard (in play etc.) for two hours and then would just drop. They became aware of his timing and when he’d stop and needed rest. Recognizing that helped him and the staff cater to his biorhythm and his needs overall.
Hear about Shawn’s beautiful work on a job-fair, to assist individuals secure employment. 86% of people with autism are unemployed. At 1:07:55 hear which great people in history had autism. Dan Aykroyd and Seinfeld are two Hollywood examples. Susan Boyle is another, as is Albert Einstein. Shawna says that’s not surprising because he was able to hyper-focus, as people with autism are able, and therefore come up with very special discoveries.
1:17:26 Shawn said, “I used to care about other people…. we’d go into the mall and she’d (Rachel) would make loud noises….I don’t give a shit anymore!” 1:18:10 Shawna said, people often say to her daughter, ‘you shouldn’t work because you are deaf’. Her daughter responds, “I can work anywhere I want. I’m just like you.”
At 1:19:55. I talk about Judaism, “especially before Rosh Hashanah” to enlighten my listeners about my religion/people, so if any of them are harboring stereotypes or even are anti-Semitic, they might understand us more so and minimizes their negative or hateful thoughts and bring unity to our world. I talk about Judaism and love.
What I took out of this show is, how important it is to find one’s passion in life. Hit your stride. Do that thing which makes you happy. You will grow, if you do, a lot, in ways, you had no idea you could. Similarly, I discovered through Shawn Kendal and Shawna Ackerman – the Shawns that diligent and consistent work on a relationship can create something magical. Similarly, the two represent what the fulfillment of a dream can make – personal and collective satisfaction. Isn’t that what we all want? I think so.
Enjoy Episode 38 of HatRadio! Let me know your thoughts and please, share the link.
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