Thirty-year-old Sam Busis has a warm, easy smile and a quiet presence that make him immediately likable. At the Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El preschool in Wynnewood where Sam is a teacher’s assistant his head teacher calls him a “treasure,” and all the children want to sit with him at circle time.
At the law firm where Sam delivers packages and sets up and cleans up the firm’s large weekly lunch meeting, the managing partner observed that “the measure of how integrated you are into the firm is how well you know Sam.”
Sam is also a beloved staff member at Camp Ramah in Palmer, Massachusetts, where he cares for other staff members’ children in the daycare center during the summer. Sam is one of a very few former vocational program participants at the camp who was asked to continue on and now is a fully paid staff member.
Today, Sam’s life – and the lives of his family members (parents Richard Busis and Judy Beck and two older sisters and their families) – is infinitely brighter than it was 22 years ago. When Sam was eight years old, he was having up to 100 seizures a day. For several years, Sam, his parents and doctors had tried, unsuccessfully, a variety of anticonvulsant drugs. Eventually, Sam went on a very restrictive diet – the ketogenic diet – which, almost miraculously, controlled his seizures. That enabled Sam to have a Bar Mitzvah, go to Jewish overnight camp at Camp Ramah in New England’s Tikvah program and graduate high school and a post-high school program at a community college in Cape Cod.
Richard describes Sam as incredibly patient, gentle and kind. “Everyone loves Sam.”
When Sam finished school and returned to Philadelphia, the next miracle happened – Sam became part of JCHAI, which receives some funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and which provides independent living support and teaches individuals the skills they need to live as independently as possible. For nearly eight years, Sam has been living in his own apartment as part of JCHAI. He prepares his own breakfasts and lunches, and, most nights, eats group dinners with JCHAI staff and other JCHAI residents. Sam met his best friend through JCHAI, and he regularly goes to the movies, the mall and shopping with his friends, either by walking or using public transportation. “JCHAI is a phenomenal organization,” says Richard.
JCHAI is just one of a number of programs the Jewish Federation supports to enable people of all abilities to reach their full potential and become more integrated into the community at large. According to Richard, “the Jewish Federation has really begun to embrace inclusion and is helping to fund vital inclusion programs. The number of resources in our Jewish community are much greater now than ten years ago, or even five years ago.”
“Sam is so much more independent now,” added Richard. “He has learned all these wonderful life skills, and he continues to develop and grow. Now, Judy and I can sleep at night. We have peace of mind knowing that Sam has a community of people looking out for him and who will continue to look after him when we no longer can.”