A group of children affected by cancer went home with a variety of fun, new memories last Friday, following their one-week, action-packed stay at Camp Quality.
They took part in a variety of activities, including hot air balloon rides, laser tag, and horseback riding. They also carried out a number of traditional camp-related activities, such as campfires and singalongs, before exploring Sylvan Lake in limousines.
“Everything we can think of that might be unique, we try and cram it in,” said camp director Ian Campbell.
The camp, one of seven across Canada, was held at Camp Kannawin near Jarvis Bay Provincial Park, and is open to children between the ages of 4 to 18 who either have cancer, are in remission, or are the sibling of another child affected by cancer.
According to Campbell, the camp is “just about letting kids be kids”.
“The word cancer is almost never really brought up,” he said. “It’s about just being loud, crazy and having the most amazing time.”
Attending the camp were children from all over Alberta, including Eckville, Spruce View, Camrose, Blackfalds and Airdrie. Others came from as far as Canmore and Fort McMurray.
Campbell said numbers this year were up for the camp, which last week received seven first-time visitors.
Campbell said that some people see more children attending the camp as a sad reminder of cancer’s devastating effects. He, however, sees an increasing attendance as a good thing.
“The way I’m choosing to look at it is the name is just getting out a lot more,” he said. “You go around, and you hold events, and you hear families say they hadn’t heard about Camp Quality.”
About 18 of this year’s 25 campers returned from last year, with some having attended the camp for as many as ten consecutive years.
Campbell said some children experience nervousness about being away from home for a week. Often, those are the same children who don’t want to go home by the time it’s over.
“It’s amazing to watch. Once you convince them to come to this camp, you see a little nerves, because it’s summer camp and you’re leaving mom and dad.
“By the time you come back, you’re exhausted, and your parents are all recharged.”
Each child who attends Camp Quality is paired with a counsellor, or a ‘companion’. These companions act as big brothers or big sisters to campers, and spend most of the week with them, said Campbell.
“It’s our hope that, after the week, that friendship continues, and that it adds another support network for those families who have gone through so much.”
Camp Quality is a non-profit organization run entirely by carefully-screened volunteers. All funds raised through the camp go directly to children and camp programming, said Campbell.
The camp is funded completely “by the generosity of corporate Alberta and personal donations”.
“It takes a lot of money to put it on, and we couldn’t possibly do it without the help of our sponsors and our community groups.”
More information on the camp is available at www.campquality.com.