For many, the summer camp is an essential childhood experience. With thousands of camps across the country, the summer camp is undoubtedly a big part of our Canadian culture. As such, they are much more than a childcare solution. In fact, research shows that the summer tradition can play an important role in socialization, learning new skills, rewarding rare learning styles, promoting independence, and ultimately improving leadership skills.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, a licensed psychologist and family therapist, writes in an article about the online mental health resource in Psych Central: "Camp leaflets usually emphasize all the sports, crafts and fun camps offer. Most of them sound and are really wonderful. But … if a camp program is well thought out and done, your child will come home with an enhanced self-esteem and self-esteem. "

Unfortunately, for children suffering from childhood cancer, it is not so easy to pack up and drive to the summer camp. There are the obvious medical barriers for those who undergo chemotherapy or need blood transfusions. There are concerns about accessibility for children in wheelchairs. There is also pressure on family finances and mental health problems that affect not only children suffering from cancer but also their siblings.

Camp Oochigeas, known as Camp Ooch, has been working tirelessly to remove barriers that prevent children affected by cancer from visiting the summer camp. For over 35 years, the privately funded charity has grown to provide the quintessential Canadian camp experience to 1,600 campers and their families each year by providing all their programs for free. Some of the children attend day care throughout Ontario or programs in the hospital. Meanwhile, others spend the night at Camp Ooch am See in Muskoka.

The 400 acre site is downright remarkable. It is the only camp in Canada where intravenous chemotherapy and blood transfusions can be performed so that children do not have to go home if they need treatment. It offers a special survivor stock program that has lost a brother or sister to cancer. All facilities are wheelchair accessible and there is a staff-driven off-road vehicle that allows you to navigate difficult trails. There is even a three tier adventure / ropes course with wheelchair accessible level. Then there are all the typical camp activities such as gymnastics, kayaking, archery, arts and crafts, karate, swimming and even ukulele lessons.

This is what more than 200 camp-ouch supporters recorded when they visited the estate in August for the opening fire bash of Ooch. While many philanthropists had provided financial support for years, few had experienced the magic of Ooch first-hand. During the event, they were welcomed into a tunnel with colorful pool noodles in a traditional camp ooch, gone on a treasure hunt to explore the camp's facilities, and dined in the dining room at the accessible Gatts & # 39; s Lodge. The evening ended with a hilarious "Sweet Caroline" song, followed by a campfire concert by cover band Dwayne Gretzky.

While the evening was enough to fund a full camp session, Ooch has greater ambitions. There are still more than 2,400 Ontario children affected by childhood cancer who have no access to an oncology camp. "Ooch brings more than 1,600 campers a year of trust, perseverance and independence, but we're ready to do more. Our goal is to help every child and family in Ontario affected by childhood cancer. That's more than 4,000 children and their families, "says CEO Alex Robertson.

Fundraising events and individual donations allow Camp Ooch to survive and grow. She receives no state funding, but is constantly striving to expand and update her facilities. In 2017, Ooch added the new dining room prematurely thanks to a timely donation. This year, they also built new, more accessible cabins. In 2018, improvements were made to Med Shed, the popular Slaight Arts and Music Center and volunteer accommodation. The camp is currently working to add more accessible trails around the site.

While the summer camp is an important experience for every child, it can be even more powerful for people with difficult living conditions. Cancer sufferers, in particular, may find it difficult to come into contact with their peers at school or feel worried about their condition. You may not be able to participate regularly in physical activity as there is a shortage of community facilities. The ability to connect with others who have had similar experiences at such a young age is incredibly impressive. Restoring the ability to engage in everyday physical activities and even water sports is an unprecedented confidence boost.

Cancer should not dictate whether a child has access to important socialization opportunities, acquires new skills or becomes more independent. With all these advantages, the most powerful thing about Camp Ooch can still be summed up in one line: they enable children to be just children.