Dream Vacation Spot for Autistic Kids & Families Is Dad’s Way of ‘Giving Back’

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emerald coast floridaIt's not too often that we get to hear a story like this one -- a story about somebody amazing doing something amazing for a bunch of other people who deserve something amazing. But Luis Navas, executive at an international consulting company and dad to 6-year-old autistic son Lucas, is somebody amazing. Of course, he just calls himself "blessed." Oh, but Navas doesn't consider himself blessed because he's a wealthy and successful businessman, as you might guess -- he's blessed, he says, because after years of therapy, Lucas has finally developed some verbal capacity. In particular, Lucas can speak the phrases "Love you, Mommy" and "Love you, Daddy."

“I’m good with that for now since I have met parents who, unfortunately, have never heard those words from their autistic children,” says Navas. Awww! Oh, but we don't consider Navas amazing just because he's a good dad ...

He's amazing, we say, because he's so aware of his good fortune and thankful for it that he came up with an amazing way to "give back," as he puts it, to families less fortunate than his own.

Navas and his wife Mary raised $2 million to buy a 2,400-square-foot house along the Emerald Coast on the Florida Panhandle. The home (which can accommodate 14 guests at one time) will serve as a year-round vacation spot for families with autistic children -- free of charge.

Think about it: These are families who are not only probably more in need of a vacation than the average family, they're also the families who have the most difficulty getting away. These are families who are likely already going broke on medical bills and therapists. Not to mention facing the challenge of finding special needs-friendly destinations at any cost.

What Luis Navas has given these families is a potentially life-changing gift. Every family needs to get away, to bond and enjoy each other's company anew in a different setting -- all the better if that setting happens to be the sparkling Emerald Coast of Florida.

Do you think Luis Navas gave autistic kids and their families an amazing gift?

 

Image via Ben Ferenchak/Flickr

autism, in the news

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nonmember avatar Lilac

It sounds to good to be true. Autism has a big range in behaviors. Unless some serious rules/ insurance is put in place someone's child is going to get hurt. You can't mix sound sensitive autistic children with screams. And evens the sweetest autistic child at home can how bouts of aggression in new places, lashing out. Unless they onyl allow children with very specific atuitum to have the free vacation it will not work out having multiply families with multiple levels of autism staying in the same place at the same time.

tiny_... tiny_mama

^ As a mom of 3 autistic children on different ends of the spectrum, I respectfully disagree. It can be done.. I know, I've done it. With a group of friends who are all parents of autistic kids.. there was 7 moms of kids on the spectrum and we had somewhere around 13 autistic kids with us for a week... It was hectic and chaotic, but a LOT of fun.

tiny_... tiny_mama

and for the record.. we all met in the autism group here on cafemom. ;)

nonmember avatar Lilac

But with respect you all knew each other and knew what everyone's kids were like. Unless they set up some kind of email chat so everyone staying at the same time can meet you are going to get people who just couldn't care less about your kid and more wanting the free vacation. Just saying alot of room for abusing this generous gift.

mompam mompam

I don't think they expect strangers to stay together. I think you can bring grandparents and aunts. Great idea.

Lauri... Lauriemom

Lilac, I think you are most likely looking for problems where there are none.  Everything has the potential for being abused or not going smoothly, but parents of children with autism are pretty sensitive to the struggles of other families like themselves.  You will not find a group of people who are more willing to work hard and accommodate a child then autism mommas, be it their own kid or someone elses


 


And for the record, I am one of the mommas tiny mama was referring to ;-)

blcsm... blcsmommie

I think this is a wonderful thing this man has done. Being a mom with a daughter on the spectrum and a son with other special needs it would be an amazing opportunity to vacation with my kids in an environment where they can just be themselves. Even if it was a shared house I look at it as a learning experience for my kids to practice social skills with a safety net with other parents who understand spectrum kids. I have never found an NT parent who is nearly as understanding as a mom of special needs kids. 

Carol Thurston Dail

where do we sign up? :)  our son loves the beach.....so do the rest of us. He relaxes, plays in the water, wow that would be wonderful!

nonmember avatar Jennifer

I think this is great! The families that stay here do not have to worry about the rude looks or comments that I often get with my son. Also if I was to stay here I wouldnt have to worry about a knock on my hotel door telling me to quiet my child. Then later another knock telling me that my child needs to be quiet or leave the hotel. It is hard especially as a single parent who has no family support and is doing it all on their own to get away. This gives alot of opportunities for the children as well as the parents. I admire this man and his wife!

Brenda Culver-Kramer

From reading this article I believe only one family stays at a time.  Extended family is welcome up to 14 people.   This is a wonderful thing this man is doing.  vacations are rough for our family our 7 year old autistic daughter, has learned to manage sensory to a point.  Loud noises, bright lights, lots of screaming and yelling still get to her.  We don't go more than 2 hours away from home cause we don't know how she will do on an airplane.  We would love a chance to get the kids to florida cause our oldest always talks about seeing the ocean.  Hats off to Luis Navas.  Your taking a challenging situation and helping others cope.  So glad to hear your son is able to say Love you Mom and Love you dad those 3 words are the most amazing to hear especially from an autistic child. 


 

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