On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Ottawa Senators Foundation is hosting their annual telethon—a show dedicated to sharing stories about how your donations are making a difference for people and programs in our community. Read how Camp Quality is giving kids with complex circumstances a chance to be kids.
By Emily Crawley
This summer might still seem far away to most of us trying to navigate the ice and snow of February. But Glenn Mooney and Sarah ter Huurne, directors at Camp Quality Eastern Ontario, have been preparing for this summer since the week-long camp for cancer patients between the ages of 7 and 17 ended last summer.
Every day counts, as running the camp takes a team of over 70 volunteers. From the camp doctors, to the nurses, lifeguards, and the companions–volunteers that each spend the whole week with a single camper–staff for the week need to be found, trained, organized, housed and fed.
“That’s why partnerships with organizations like the Ottawa Senators Foundation are so important,” says Glenn. “Everything is paid for through fundraising, and partnerships like this free up the organizers to focus on finding awesome volunteers and creating an amazing program experience for the campers. It’s called Camp Quality for a reason.”
“It’s called Camp Quality for a reason.”
Fortunately, the volunteers that find Camp Quality–through word of mouth, dedicated advertising, and through exposure to a wider audience via its connections with powerful brands like the Sens Foundation–are not immune to the magic that Camp Quality creates each summer. Many volunteers return year after year; Sarah shares that one of this summer’s camp doctors first volunteered as an 18-year-old, long before the years of medical school that have allowed him to return voluntarily to provide care for the campers who attend.
For the nurses and physicians that choose to spend their vacation providing medical care for the campers, there is a huge reward to seeing campers outside of the hospital environment. “One nurse told us that she sees some of these children at CHEO–and it’s the first time she’s seen them smile,” says Sarah.
That may be because, as Glenn puts it, “There are no sick kids at camp. While they may have medical challenges, at camp they are just kids being kids, getting away from these challenges for a week.” Sarah and Glenn describe a scene where one child took on the camp’s climbing wall, with a crowd of campers and companions cheering from below. The satisfaction of succeeding in a physical challenge like this, and the social reward, is missing from many of these campers’ lives by not attending school or extracurriculars regularly.
“There are no sick kids at camp.”
The one-on-one attention with a companion–a volunteer that offers a camper friendship, encouragement, and freedom to grow socially–not only helps to make up for the lack of peer interaction at school but can transform a camper’s attitude, and it’s a transformation that lasts far beyond the boundaries of summer camp. Just one week can help a child thrive.
Parents of campers know this well, and it can help ease the anxiety a parent of a child with an illness feels when sending their child to camp. Camp staff ease these fears by letting parents know they’ll drive any child home that wants to leave. But–“we’ve never driven a kid home,” says Glenn.
For families who spend much of their time in the hospital, being able to send their kids to camp is a gift–families are not required to pay camp fees, and their children are able to immerse themselves in activities that are the joy of many a childhood. Archery, swimming, woodworking, karaoke and talent shows–children can explore and develop new passions and interests as their parents enjoy a week of rest.
Connections formed at camp last throughout the year, and with support from organizations like the Sens Foundation, some campers have been able to enjoy opportunities related to a more wintery interest–hockey. Getting the chance to attend Ottawa Senators games, for some, may be the perfect way to persevere through the cold months. Waiting for next summer to just be a camp kid.
Tune in to the Ottawa Senators Foundation Telethon powered by Mitel on Thursday, February 28 beginning at 6:30pm prior to the Senators home game versus the Edmonton Oilers on TSN. To make a contribution, please visit www.sensfoundation.com, call 1-844-8GO-SENS (846-7367), text GOSENS to 45678 to donate $20, or text SENS to donate $10. All donations made before February 28th will be matched up to a total of $25,000.