Jet boating and farm visits provide sick kids with escape
Wellington / Central Districts
Summer camps are a dream for any kid, but for those affected by cancer Camp Quality represents a break from reality.
About 70 primary school children, or campers, from the lower North Island took to the Manawatu and Rangitikei outdoors last week, setting up camp at Nga Tawa school in Marton.
Each child has experienced cancer or is affected by the disease.
Campers are assigned a companion who look after them 24/7 for the duration of the camp.
Throughout the week the children took part in farm visits, riding animals, jet boating, helicopter rides and demonstrations by firefighters.
For companion and Palmerston North firefighter Tim Johnson it was his third camp supervising a child.
His camper Samuel, 7, from Feilding, has a rare form of cancer.
"He's had a ball of a time," Johnson said.
"Knowing you've been a part of that time and being able to put a smile on his face is good.
"From Sam's point of view it's been about getting him outside and being active."
Regional Manager Paul Shailer said his aim was to let kids be kids for a week.
"Fun, hope and happiness is what we go by. They're looking forward to this all year - here they can mix and mingle with others without the added pressure of having to live up to the standards of other children," he said.
"It's the things we take for granted, things like patting a deer, they've enjoyed. Banging nails into a block of wood with a hammer was really popular.
"Some of them have probably been in hospital for half the year. It makes me happy to see they're getting some enjoyment out of life during this week, and we have with them also."
Companion Kelly Roberts was in her 10th camp.
"I always thought if my son was in the position of these children then I'd like someone to be doing this for him," she said.
"For me it was kind of like giving back in case I might have needed it."
Roberts thought the kids enjoyed the jet boat ride on the Rangitikei River the most.
"With the jet boats it was getting some of them outside their comfort zones. This camp does help them - there's no pressure from other kids at school, they don't have to compete with normal kids. They can just focus on being themselves."
Story by Sam Kilmister appeared in the Manawatu Standard 24 January 2017