Meghan Finnerty & Zach Lyman
Friends Adopted From China Reunite at Camp Abilities
Two boys who once lived together in a foster home became roommates again — this time at week-long sports camp for children with visual impairments.
A special reunion of two adopted friends added extra energy to the annual excitement over Camp Abilities at SUNY Brockport.
Ted Carl, 8, and Remy Torsilieri, 10, were roommates in a Chinese foster home for visually impaired children. In 2016, both of the boys were adopted and brought home to America.
Ted moved home to Red Hook, NY.
Remy joined his family in Flemington, NJ.
The boys were brought back together at Camp Abilities in July, an educational sports camp on the Brockport campus for students who have visual impairments, blindness, or deaf-blindness. Camp Abilities started in 1996 and has grown into a model brought across the world.
According to their parents, camp seemed like the perfect opportunity to reunite the boys while exposing them to new athletic opportunities.
“This is a time where Ted can go to a camp and have fun. He spends so much of his days really having to work and practice and learn so many skills,” said Jennifer Quinn-Carl, Ted’s mom. Or, as Ted interjected, “work, work, work, work, work.”
“This will be a time that he can just go and play and have fun and be a normal kid,” she added.
Ted beamed with excitement when he talked about going to camp.
“I think the coolest thing about Camp Abilities is going to be being with blind people. We're going to compete with each other and help each other out. And I’m going to make new friends there,” Ted said. “I would love to go paddle boarding, and I would love to do soccer."
The reunion of the boys began with a Facebook post.
After the Carl family saw a post about Camp Abilities, they reached out to the Torsilieri family to find out if Remy might want to go to camp, too.
“I looked into it and thought it would be really nice to get them together again,” said Chris Torsilieri, Remy’s mom. What sold her on the idea was that Ted and Remy would be roommates again.
Both families were excited for the variety of activities the boys would experience together.
“He’s going to have the opportunity to do things he can't do here,” said Dean Torsilieri, Remy’s dad.
It’s been challenging to find opportunities for Remy and his sister Willow, who also has a visual impairment, to try a variety of sports. They live in an area that has high expectations for sports, and other kids like them aren't close by.
Chris Torsilieri makes it clear that being blind or visually impaired doesn't mean they can't do it.
“It’s just the opportunity to try it,” she said.
During the past year, Ted has tried lots of new things — like riding a bike and running. As he has gradually become more interested in sports, his parents advocate for more opportunities for team activities. For instance, during the school year, he now takes physical education classes four times a week — some adaptive and some general with his classmates.
“Most of the kids are in a school district where they’re the only child with a visual impairment. Some of the kids never met other kids like them,” said Camp Abilities Director Lauren Lieberman.
But at camp, what makes everyone different from others makes them all the same. For one week, the campers are surrounded by people like them all day, Lieberman explained.
Campers learn how to adapt sports and advocate for themselves while they’re pushed to be the best that they can be, she added.
Above all, adaptive physical education breaks down barriers and shatters stereotypes about what students in this community can do.
Camp Abilities is just one week at Brockport, but the college is a leader in adapted physical education all year long. Brockport teaches students to go out into the world and adapt sports to engage children with varying abilities.
“It’s about inclusion,” Lieberman said. “It’s a philosophy that everybody matters and that nobody should be marginalized.”