Rainbow Valley Resource Network
In their own words
Raising a loved one with special needs isn’t easy. Being part of a supportive faith community helps!
RVRN is blessed to share these stories and expressions of gratitude with you. Told in the words of our constituents and supporters, they convey the impact and benefits of our mission better than we could ourselves.
Choosing the path ‘most needed’
A Conversation with Rick Lipsey
From his apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Rick Lipsey can see beyond traffic to the wooded canopy of Central Park—a haven of greenspace in the heart of America’s busiest city. That’s where he and his daughter, Claudia, walk Lucy, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Many paths wind through the 843-acre park, circling ponds, crossing bridges—all leading visitors to ever-changing glimpses of beauty.
As a father of four children—one of whom is transitioning out of a special-educational school—Rick finds spiritual lessons on the path he walks every day as a parent. It’s “helped to teach me the path that is most needed: deeply understanding my foremost parental duty of knowing that children are not what parents make, shape, and form, but that God is the only Maker and Leader,” he says, “that children are all special, God-filled ideas, teeming with blessings, and they must be cherished as such in prayer, thought, and action.”
Rick and his wife, Carrie Cohen, live with their daughter, Claudia, and their three sons—Alex, Timmy, and Ricky—one block from the park. Claudia is 20, and her brothers range in age from 12 to 19. Claudia’s path may not be typical—and is not always easy, says Rick—yet, it’s full of joyful activity and opportunity.
Since she was a toddler, Claudia has been dancing (ballet, hip hop, and most recently, flamenco). She loved playing lacrosse until the girls started getting more competitive in middle school. She resisted swimming as a child, but after prayer and listening, Rick consulted her swim teacher about how to proceed, and now she loves swimming weekly with her dad.
Growing up in the Christian Science Sunday School
Claudia grew up attending a Christian Science (CS) Sunday School in a class with her peers. “She always had the same books that everyone had,” recalls Rick. “She couldn’t read them, but she had them marked and asked people to help her read them.” Now that she’s graduated from Sunday School, Claudia insists on attending church every Sunday and Wednesday. She also reads the Bible Lesson with her dad every morning. “She’s really embraced church in a way that’s appropriate for her, whenever the spirit moves her – and clearly it does,” Rick adds.
Carrie, Claudia’s mother, is not a Christian Scientist, but Rick and Carrie have a deal: The kids attend Christian Science church and rely on CS treatment, but if a problem doesn’t yield in a timely manner, they go to a doctor. (It’s rarely been necessary. “Claudia’s hardly missed a day of school in 14 years,” Rick says.)
The Benefits of Summer Camp
Starting at the age of eight, Claudia looked forward to going to a summer camp for Christian Scientists in Maine. “Claudia has been such a special part of our camp family,” says Mary Rankin, Director of Camp Newfound. “Not only did she grow and blossom during her time at Newfound, she also inspired growth for her cabin mates. As the years went on, her cabin mates began to rally behind Claudia and support her in tremendous ways…. She really was the glue in her cabin.”
One of her cabin mates was Anya Hooper. “I think a lot of people at camp thought Claudia was super ‘go-with-the-flow,’—and she was, but she never got enough credit for her humor! Claudia made me laugh and held my hand and was my buddy no matter what,” she says. “She loved me so unselfishly, and it made Newfound feel like home.”
RVRN’s Work Experience Program
For several years, Claudia worked as a CIT (counselor in training) both at Newfound and later Adventure Unlimited. For the past two summers, she served on the Lodge Crew in RVRN’s Work Experience Program—a supportive program where trainees serve as paid staff during first session at the A/U Ranches. The program emphasizes work- and life-skills development under the guidance of RVRN staff. For three weeks, Claudia joined her coworkers washing dishes, and setting up and cleaning the dining room and lodge. Between shifts, they read the Bible Lesson together and practiced doing laundry, hiking, and interacting socially. “To be around Claudia when she smiles is like seeing a rainbow burst through a stormy sky,” says RVRN Program Director Rebecca Creighton. “She lights up everyone around her.”
RVRN’s Work Experience Program was a great experience for Claudia, Rick says, because it’s structured and supportive—and most importantly, it shows that people of very different abilities can do good work. “It’s one of the best things going in the CS community,” adds the proud dad.
From dancing and swimming, to Christian Science summer camp and church, to being a member of the Lodge Crew in RVRN’s Work Experience Program – Claudia’s active life offers beautiful examples of her grace, joy, and humor. Her life path continues leading to new and exciting opportunities. After she completes her education and vocational training program next spring, Claudia may have another adventure in store: a specialized college.