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Hunter’s story of discovery and success

Hunter—pictured here with his parents, Stephanie and Frank—enjoyed a uniquely personalized experience at Camp Sno-Mo in the summer of 2023.
Hunter—pictured here with his parents, Stephanie and Frank—enjoyed a uniquely personalized experience at Camp Sno-Mo in the summer of 2023.

For Stephanie Jarrach of Long Island, NY, it only took a few minutes on the phone with Easterseals New Hampshire’s Camp Sno-Mo director Christopher Ellis to decide it would be the right fit for her son, 18-year-old Hunter Pugliese.

“It was Chris who really kind of sold me on everything,” Stephanie says. “I said, ‘If we’re even half as successful as this man has led me to believe we can be, then it will be a great summer.’”

Hunter had previously attended two other sleepaway camps with varying success. Early in the spring of 2023, Stephanie decided to take it upon herself to search online through Google for reasonably distanced camps. Eventually, she narrowed it down to Camp Sno-Mo as one of a few potential options.

That June, the family traveled to New Hampshire to attend an open house. “We came up just to make sure my initial gut reaction was correct and that the facilities were what I would want them to be,” Stephanie says. “Everything was fantastic and made me feel even better about it.”

But as Hunter’s father, Frank Pugliese, points out, none of this would have mattered if Hunter didn’t feel at home. “Seeing him immediately feel like he could exist here and do well … was kind of everything else we needed to see,” Frank says. “There was just something very welcoming about the grounds, and when you have a child who can’t verbalize as clearly, you’re watching his cues and reactions, and immediately it seemed like he felt comfortable.”

So, just what was it about Camp Sno-Mo that made it such a good fit for Hunter? Frank says it was not only the wide range of outdoor activities available but also the fact that Hunter would receive tremendous care and attention from camp counselors and staff. “Hunter is not a big team sports kind of kid, but he really enjoys all of the outdoor stuff—the zip lines, the access to the lake, the canoes, the kayaks, things like that,” he says.

Hunter was one of about 55 percent of campers who attended Camp Sno-Mo for the first time in 2023. According to parent/guardian feedback from a survey conducted by Easterseals NH, between 95 and 100 percent of respondents agreed that their campers had an “excellent” experience.

Stephanie added that the ability of Camp Sno-Mo staff to create an individualized schedule around everything Hunter was personally interested in was another major selling point for them. “The fact that we weren’t just going from baseball to soccer, to the next sport and the next sport … was huge,” she says. “Even local camps were unsuccessful with us for that reason. … Even though he needed a schedule, he was still able to say, ‘I want to go swimming today,’ or ‘I want to go to the archery range today.’ I don’t know any other place that does things in that scope.”

Hunter’s overall experience was so positive that Stephanie and Frank are already taking steps toward him returning for another session.

“Kids like Hunter who are on the spectrum require love, caring, and an atmosphere where everyone from top to bottom not only understands that but appreciates and gets it,” Frank says. “I think that’s the biggest piece more than anything else. The activities are great, but it’s the staff that really makes it. … Everyone that we’ve spoken to understands that there may be challenges and that things aren’t going to be perfect, but you roll with it, you adapt, and you move forward. It’s the combination of all those things that made it perfect for him.”