JCCA CEO Ronald Richter recounts a heartwarming story about a little boy in JCCA’s Pleasantville START Program, a short-term residential program for youth with behavioral and mental health problems in Westchester, NY.

I often visit the boys and girls on our Campus. During the winter, I spent some time at the Short-Term Assessment and Rapid Treatment program (START) for young children who need intensive, special intervention to get stabilized and return to their families. I happened to see this young boy who was having difficulty eating and the gentle giant of a JCCA counselor who was patiently helping him.

I am pleased to report that several months later, the little boy is doing very well. I was so delighted to see him recently — it was at a ceremony where he won an award for being the most improved student!

He was so happy and sweet. I could not believe that this smiling, outgoing child was the same one I had seen who had previously been so withdrawn and unhappy.

His clinical worker said, “Working with him has been an incredible experience. When he first arrived, he didn’t listen and didn’t seem to understand that there was a set of rules to follow. What I found most heartbreaking was that he lacked the curiosity that defines a child of his age. He didn’t ask questions about the world or play in an explorative manner. He could not even throw or catch a ball.

Slowly, as the months passed, he began to make friends with his peers. He had special tutoring and was able to transition into Kindergarten smoothly. He has improved with running, jumping, climbing and catching, and has learned to ride a tricycle. Now he is curious about the world. Making silly faces, he said to me, ‘I have fun now and I’m behaving…I like to play games, I love my friends and my staff.’”

As I mark my first year as CEO of JCCA, I am so grateful to the dedicated and talented JCCA staff for helping this young boy make such wonderful progress, and to see a happy child who is thriving.

Ronald E. Richter