View Full Version : Marine daughter displays exceptional strength

08-21-05, 08:13 AM
Marine daughter displays exceptional strength
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by Lance Cpl. Alec Kleinsmith

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CALIF. (Aug. 10, 2005) -- Ryley R. McLaughlin looks like any typical 2-year-old girl. She's outgoing, animated and has an energy level many adults would love to possess. But unknown to most, she is one of the many children in our country who suffer from mental and physical disabilities.

Fortunately for Ryley and her parents, there is a program offered to military families aboard Camp Pendleton that offers guidance and support to aid families trying to raise handicapped children.

Military families have a support system to lean on in the Exceptional Family Member Program - a non-profit organization which allows parents of disabled children to come together and share their experiences with each other.

"Parents use the program to network with other families so they can exchange parenting tips," said Samantha J. Holt, the family programs coordinator for Camp Flashhh (Families laughing and sharing happiness, hugs and hope), a separate program offered by the Armed Forces Young Men's Christian Association, which works in conjunction with EFMP and its participating families.

Through the EFMP and Camp Flashhh, families participate in free field trips, such as visiting museums, going to baseball games and bowling.

"The program also puts parents in a comfort zone because they know that they are in an organization with other military families who are dealing with similar parenting issues," said Holt.

The EFMP is geared primarily toward children and young adults, but adults with disabilities are not exempt from participation.

Some families even have a disabled parent as well as a disabled child, said Jenny L. Troyer, the Operation Hero facilitator for Camp Flashhh.

The program caters to almost every kind of disability, whether the disability is something as minor as asthma or as serious as Down's syndrome.

There are currently 30 families active in the EFMP, but there are more families who meet the programs criteria who could benefit from the available resources.

"Unfortunately, many junior Marines are afraid to enroll in the program because they are apprehensive about asking their staff NCOs for time off from work to participate in the different field trips and events the EFMP and Camp Flashhh offer," said Maj. Bret M. McLaughlin, 44, a logistics officer with I Marine Expeditionary Force and Ryley's father.

McLaughlin and his wife Deb know from experience that the EFMP is an extremely helpful resource. They have two daughters who are a part of the program, and on Aug. 10 the family was treated to complimentary tickets to Sea World San Diego courtesy of Camp Flashhh.

During the field trip, Ryley and her sister, Taylor Bower, 13, were treated to views of graceful dolphins, enormous killer whales and friendly sea lions.

What makes Ryley's trip to Sea World all the more prominent is the fact that Ryley was born prematurely and only weighed 2 lbs., 10 oz.

"During week 17 of my pregnancy, the doctors spoke to us about possibly terminating Ryley due to complications from the pregnancy," said Deb McLaughlin.

Instead the family kept their hopes high, and Ryley was finally brought into the world.

Now almost three, Ryley suffers from pulmonary stenosis and atrial septal, both heart defects affecting blood flow and appetite.

Mentally, Riley has speech-delayed disorder, which limits her to 15 spoken words and some sign language.

Fortunately for the McLaughlin family, the EFMP is there to help ease some of the obstacles that naturally comes with raising disabled children, such as increased medical care and personal attention.

When Maj. McLaughlin was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, Mrs. McLaughlin found the EFMP to be helpful, but found most of her support through communicating with other military families in her neighborhood.

"The Pendleton EFMP has been extremely helpful in providing valuable resources to families for their disabled children," said Deb McLaughlin. "We just wish more people knew about the program."

For more information on the Exceptional Family Member Program and the Camp Flashhh program, go to camppendletonasymca.org or call 725-5363.



08-21-05, 10:31 AM
Thank you For Posting this. While My Husband and I are Both out of the Marines now, It is good to know that had he re-enlisted, This would have been available for our Son who Is Autistic. Marine families need to know that Programs like this are available should they need them,
Semper Fi,