Teen Camp 2013 – A HUGE Success!
Teen Camp 18-21 January 2013
Thanks to all of our new and returning campers and volunteers for making this year’s Teen Camp such a memorable experience. A big thank you as well, to all of the staff from Gundiwindi Lodge, for making all of our campers and volunteers feel so welcome at such short notice.
Due to the recent Victorian bushfires, Teen Camp almost did not go ahead. The original location selected for the camp, Rawson Village, in Rawson, was suddenly cancelled on the 17th of January, because of bushfires in the local area. HeartKids Australia would like to thank all those other venues and associations, such as the Christian Youth Camps of Victoria, who assisted us in our last minute search for an alternative venue.
Campers arrived at Gundiwindi Lodge on Friday afternoon. This year we had campers from each state and territory. It was a very long journey for some, particularly those from Western Australia who had been travelling since 4am.
On Saturday the activities program commenced. The giant swing and the flying fox provided a challenge for those who had a fear of heights, while the low ropes course tested everyone’s balance. Other activities such as reptile education and yabbying proved to be an unexpected hit, with campers lining up to pet the turtles and lizards and many enjoying yabby races.
Saturday also saw the arrival of the camp ambassador, Dr Michael Toon, who inspired everyone with his speech about his experience as a Heartkid. In addition to being a pharmacist, and then studying medicine, Michael, who is now a registrar, has won a bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Olympics for coxing the men’s heavyweight eight rowing team. That night, the much anticipated ‘op-shop ball’ was held in the recreation room, otherwise affectionately known as ‘the nightclub’. There were many wonderful and weird costumes and a great night was had by all.
Activities continued on Sunday. Campers and volunteers built some impressive huts; one offering was wheelchair accessible while another even had a welcome sign! Some were better than others at bush cooking; many a damper ended up in the ashes or was inedible! On Sunday there was fierce competition at the trivia night held in ‘the nightclub’. Following that many campers enjoyed time around the campfire toasting marshmallows or preparing for their journey home the following day.
After breakfast on Monday morning campers packed-up their belongings, were picked up or boarded buses to take them to the airport for flights home. Many were tired, but happy to have been reunited with old friends or to have forged new friendships. Teen Camp provided many campers with the knowledge that they aren’t alone; there are lots of Heartkids just like them, so while they are at camp they are just ‘regular’ kids.
Teen Camp would not have been possible without all of the hard work and effort of our volunteers, thank you! HeartKids really appreciates the time that our volunteers give to attend Teen Camp. The introduction of the role of Camp Champions was a huge success; the Camp Champions acted as great mentors for the campers and have demonstrated their ability to become future Group Leaders. HeartKids would like to acknowledge the generous support of our sponsors, who also make Teen Camp possible: LeasePlan for sponsoring the activities program for all of our campers; Actelion, for sponsoring the travel and accommodation for our volunteers; Device Technologies for supplying the defibrillator for camp; and Bonds for supplying t-shirts for use at camp.
Dr Micheal Toon was the official Camp Ambassador for 2013. Michael was born with a complex congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries with a VSD and pulmonary stenosis. After receiving a life-saving balloon catheter on his first day of life he underwent open heart surgery at the age of 3, experienced a relatively normal childhood interrupted only by a pacemaker insertion and several re-ops from the age of seven. Dr Toon survived these challenges to enjoy a rewarding athletic and academic career and is embarking on an exciting medical career including work in cardiology, an area close to his heart.
As a role model for living with child heart disease, Dr Toon spent time with the campers, sharing his unique perspective and useful insight and discussing the challenges he and his family have faced, how they responded to them and how they have shaped him.
For the first time ever, HeartKids Australia introduced Camp Champions for Teen Camp. Camp Champions are Heartkids aged 18 and over who have been to camp before and understand what it’s like to be a Heartkid. Their role is to mentor the younger campers and help them make the most of the experience, and they in turn will be mentored by the Camp Supervisor and learn more about being a role model themselves.
Teen camp is open to Heartkids aged between 13 and 17 and their siblings. Organised by HeartKids Australia and supported by a team of Volunteers who are sponsored by Actelion, camp participants will be able to meet fellow CHD patients, reunite with teens from previous years and enjoy a range of activities and talks thanks to the Day Activities Sponsor Leaseplan.