Meet Haley Bach

Today Haley Bach is pursuing a career working with people with disabilities.

But that might not have happened if not for an amazing friendship she developed while bunking with Hannah Terle, a camper with autism, the summer she was 10.

It was during one summer at the JCC’s Camp Milldale. After attending camp for years, Haley had developed a core group of camp friends. Hannah was part of the camp’s inclusion program, designed for campers with a wide range of disabilities who join bunks with their typical peers.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Haley recalls. “Hannah comes into our bunk and she wasn’t verbal, she just made noises. Yet, there was something about her. We connected almost immediately on that first day.”

With Haley taking the lead, the bunk befriended Hannah. Hannah loved the water and she often joined the girls in the shallow end of the pool to play. Hannah enjoyed playing in the sandbox, and Haley would spend time with her there. And Hannah had so much fun performing the chicken dance that it soon became a bunk favorite – and the bunk’s entry in Camp Milldale’s talent show.

“Camp was my home and I wanted everyone to have a good time there,” recalls Haley. Although camp ended, the friends kept in touch. Haley visited Hannah in her home in Howard County, hanging out with her at a local indoor pool. Occasionally, they would go out to dinner. And Haley became Hannah’s inclusion counselor a few years later.

As the friendship blossomed, so did Haley’s interest in learning more about autism. Looking back, Haley believes it was the first day that she met Hannah that she realized she wanted to pursue a career working with individuals with special needs.

Today, Haley is pursuing a degree in social work. And she works at KLAL (Keep Living and Learning) For Every Season, a vocational and life skills activities for teens and adults with learning, developmental, social, emotional and physical disabilities, held at the JCC.

Hannah’s mother, Judy Terle, sees the friendship working because the two treat each other with respect. “If Hannah did something different, Haley didn’t think it was weird. She lets Hannah be herself and accepts her for who she is.”

Fourteen years later, Hannah remains one of Haley’s best friends.

“I’ll tell her everything about me. If I’m upset, I’ll hug her and cry. And she’ll hug me back. I really value her friendship. She’s one of a kind. Hannah made me who I am today,” says Haley.

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