Billy Nacmias is a 20 year-old man with autism from Breezy Point, Queens. When he was 16 years old, a teacher at Beach Channel High School viciously beat him, sending him into a decline. He became a recluse, refusing to leave his room, and binge eating until his weight was up to 280 pounds. His parents often called the police for help when he would erupt into intense rages.
His father, Jack Nacmias, says,
“My wife, Jane and I, would clean up the mess and weep. Not for ourselves. For him, for Billy, We didn’t know how to help him.”
As part of their settlement from the city, Billy was given a spot in a program called the Center for Discovery in the Catskills. The Center is a non-profit organization that offers educational and therapeutic opportunities for individuals with autism and other disabilities. Through the program, Billy was able to spend time in nature, eating fresh foods and detoxing, while enjoying stimulating activities such as hiking and raising animals on the 1,000 acre farm at the Center. The results were nothing short of amazing. His father says,
“Billy arrived like 280 pounds of bottled rage. Six months later, Billy rushed out and hugged us and proudly showed us the house he shared with four other kids. He dropped to 168 pounds.”
Billy’s transformation was so dramatic that it prompted a story in the New York Daily News. The family was thrilled by the changes, but concerned, because Billy would be aging out of the program in one year. Luckily, his story inspired the staff at the Center to expand their programming to include adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Patrick Dollard, the center’s president and CEO, says he has completed the first phase of the process with state officials to expand their program to include adults. Dollard says,
“We’re very optimistic. If all goes well we’ll be up and running by 2015.”
When asked about Billy, he says, “Billy has progressed so far so quickly he might be running this whole operation in five years.
Billy is currently in charge of charting egg production on the farm. “He’s also a trail leader,” says his father. Nacmias continues,
“The kid who wouldn’t come out of his room now leads other kids on nature hikes through the woods. He rode a zip line 50 feet above the tree line down Frost Mountain. He teaches new kids how to care for farm animals.”
“If this all goes well, my little boy Billy will be set for life. He’ll have a home, a job, a sense of responsibility, purpose and accomplishment. A few short years ago he was a raging, obese recluse. I thought there was no hope for Billy. Today, I believe in happy endings.”
For more information about the Center for Discovery, visit their web site at http://www.thecenterfordiscovery.org.