The goal of all of Maine Youth Alliance’s The Game Loft programming is to bring teens out of isolation and into a positive community of shared values. Youth who attend The Game Loft’s programs are given opportunities to serve their community, and gaming experiences that lead to increased knowledge and understanding of themselves and the world.
Tommy (not his real name) suffered from both epilepsy and bullying. Seizure disorder is seldom a secret. For Tommy it was a curse. Almost every day he suffered from a seizure that left him tired and disoriented. When he had a seizure in school his classmates often mocked him until he felt ashamed for just living. When he joined the Game Loft he expected similar behavior but when he had a seizure we made sure he was safe and then treated him like any other kid. Tommy couldn’t believe that we would be patient and kind forever so he “pushed the envelope” over and over again. The seizures were easy to cope with but the challenging behavior made us find patience when we felt put out. Little by little, year by year, Tommy found his place. He was a tireless volunteer who really enjoyed helping other people. As his behavior calmed and his skills improved we counted on him more all the time.
Then two things happened that changed everything. The first was that Tommy got a Circle of Care. That group works as a board of directors who meet with a kid twice a month to help him or her navigate through their lives. Very soon into the Circle, Tommy found out that he would be a candidate for a surgical procedure that might eliminate his seizures. This is very serious brain surgery and Tommy was scared.
The Circle of Care listened to his fears and helped him think about his future while slowly getting him to have more successes in his life. Tommy had the surgery and it was fully successful and we all cheered but life in high school was still difficult. Tommy wore a hat in school to cover the bandages on his head after surgery. Tommy’s fear of teasing forced him to change schools but he continued his relationships at the Game Loft. In a new community he joined a church choir, took more advanced classes in school, and graduated from high school last June. He hopes to become a professional fire fighter in California after receiving his EMT certification. Tommy will always choose to be of service to others and now many paths are open to him and he continues to be a friend of the Game Loft.