ON the evening of Thursday, January 22 in Perth, an amazing and emotional role reversal took place: 150 children living with cancer aged 13 – 18 were treated as celebrities by celebrities themselves as part of a surprise for their final Camp Quality camp.
At a Farewell Formal Dinner at East Fremantle Yacht Club, WA, popular bands San Cisco and Lights of Berlin did surprise performances and Heidi, Will and Woody from 92.9FM surprised the children by interviewing them on the red carpet. Each child arrived in a limo. The footage was beamed back into the dinner room so other children could watch the surprise of their fellow ‘campers’ as they arrived.
Volunteers acted as paparazzi and secretly briefed the celebrities so they knew the name, hobbies and passions of each young person, adding to their surprise as they welcomed them. The children were also treated to their own exclusive fireworks display and a meet and greet with Freemantle Docker Tendai Mzungu.
Monika Kodrun, Camp Quality Area Manager for WA, said: “This was the final camp we’ll run for young people in this age group, so it was very special and very emotional. Due to cancer, these kids wouldn’t have had a ‘normal childhood’ meaning they may’ve missed out on many of the milestones most young people can take for granted such as adventurous activities or their school formal. At Camp Quality we pride ourselves on giving children back their childhood, but also restoring the confidence that the anxiety of the cancer journey may have stolen from them. Creating lasting memories is also something we specialise it. We certainly did that.”
Attendees included Abby Layh, 13, from Subiaco WA who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in May 2013 and is still on active treatment (as pictured below.) She summed up the experience on behalf of everyone when she described it as “simply awesome.”
Children travelled to Freemantle from across WA, SA, NT and ACT to attend the camp, which was kindly supported by 60 volunteers from across WA. Other activities put on for the young people included a day trip to Rottnest Island, circus, music, dance and DJ workshops, a special Freemantle Prison night tour, discos and movie nights.
This is the last ever camp that the charity will run for young people in the 13 – 18 age group. The charity is reducing its age range to help children with cancer aged 13 and under in collaboration with CanTeen, which supports teenagers and young people with cancer. Recently diagnosed children aged over 13 will ‘graduate’ up to CanTeen. This is to reduce duplication of services in the voluntary sector, and also to ensure all young people living with cancer over 13 years old are given the support they need.