Camp Oochigeas

“You have failed only when you have failed to try. Act as if it were impossible to fail and it will be.”

– motto at Camp Ooch

Camp. Do you remember camp? Pine trees and mosquito bites, smelling like campfire and bug spray, singing songs and learning useful skills like archery. Making new friends and surviving canoe trip. Mail from home, and escape from city life. Camp = quintessential Canadian childhood.

I resisted the lure of camp when I was a kid – my Dad always thought I should go and would say, “Why don’t you go to camp this year?” and I would always say, “No… it’s not me. I don’t want to.” I couldn’t picture myself, an urban nerdy bookworm, getting grubby and going on hikes for hours on end or whatever. What I didn’t know at the time is that I love going on hikes for hours on end. So I never went. Until the summer after Grade 9, when I was almost too old for camp, one of my school friends convinced me to come with her to camp, because it was the best. I agreed to go, and then she couldn’t go, so suddenly I was going to camp alone. Eek!

Orbiting somewhere quite far outside of my comfort zone, I set off by myself for three weeks at Camp Wabikon in Temagami. And of course had the time of my life. Recently, an old camp friend tagged me in some photos uploaded to the camp’s Facebook page. Those pictures were taken more than 20 years ago! My 14-year-old self had teeth freshly-liberated from braces (best feeling ever) and wore a home-made tye-dyed T-shirt. Crafty.

Those old photos made me fairly reflective about the gifts camp gives. The escape from parents, time outdoors in the natural world, and the chance to make new “camp friends” – completely separate from your city friends. It pushes kids outside of the comfy little boundaries they’ve set for themselves, and forces them to do things they would never have dreamt that they could do in normal life: paddle and portage a canoe, do a ropes course, or get up and sing a song in front of the whole camp. That is what it does for your average kid – now imagine what it does for cancer kids?

On May 12th I am running in the Sporting Life 10K in Toronto and fundraising for Camp Oochigeas. Camp Ooch is a camp for cancer patients and survivors. Ooch on the 8th is the program at Sick Kids run by Ooch staff, who bring the spirit and fun of camp to what is surely one of the saddest places on Earth – the pediatric oncology ward.

Gavin and I have always enjoyed the crafts and activities run by the Ooch people on clinic days. Cancer kids need young, energetic camp-counsellor types befriending them and high-fiving them. It is awesome for them to be treated as if they are normal kids when they are scarred and bald and trailing tubes, bags and IV poles. And trust me – cancer kids face their fair share of isolation, both physically and socially.

I don’t do a lot of “cancer” fundraising for research, etc. because there are lots of great people out there doing that. I want to make a difference in the lives of individual children, I want them to experience something special or bring something necessary to their lives, and so that is what my fundraising efforts will always focus on.

I set my initial fundraising goal at $250, but it was quickly smashed through the generosity of friends and family, so I’ve raised the bar to $1,000. Follow this link to contribute, or I am always happy to receive donations by cash or cheque, just send me a message and I will be happy to provide details about where to send it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your help! For the past, for now, for always.



Leave a Reply