THUNDER BAY – Today the campers and volunteers were asked to write their thoughts about what Camp Quality is to them and a camper hand wrote, “CQ is the best thing for a kid that had cancer to have fun.” Fun is what it is all about.
Just when we thought the day was done, a bunch of them go swimming. It just doesn’t stop! The fun is spontaneous and the friendships are developing with intensity.
We will talk about this day in reverse as it keeps getting better and better.
We arrived back from a field trip to Thunder Bay a short time ago. We were treated to ice cream from the owner of Merla Mae, attended the Festival of India and stopped at the Terry Fox Lookout to have our annual photo taken by the monument .
Earlier today, before ‘Toes Up’, photographer Alan Dickson , stopped in for his 10th year of taking our pictures for the yearbook. Sushi was made, Tae Kwon Do was demonstrated and early this morning there was a not so gentle knocking on our doors telling us to WAKE UP!
The darkness is now upon us again and the grounds are quiet. A few of us have midnight oil to burn. Tomorrow morning we will hear what A.O.K. Bucket (Acts of Kindness) contains. We recognize acts of kindness. We encourage respectful behavior. At the end of the week we are all better for having been here.
We were introduced to “the bucket “ this morning by Joline who is spending her first year at being a volunteer. She has been a camper for 10 years and formerly from Atikokan, now lives in Sault Ste. Marie. Last summer, Joline made a speech at a Camp Quality National fundraiser and she shared it with us this year and in closing we are sharing it in this blog. …
“My name is Joline. I have been going to Camp Quality for 10 years . First, I’ll tell you a little bit about my story. I was diagnosed when I was 2 years old. I had Rhabdomayosarcoma; a tumour in my sinuses. I was brought from my home town near Thunder Bay to Toronto, where I was treated at Sick Kids. I went through radiation and chemotherapy. I lost my hair, I lost my energy and the treatment hit me so hard it almost killed me. I went into remission about a year later and have been cancer free for 14 years.
So next came CQ. What is CQ exactly? CQ is an international organization designed to send you cancer patients and survivors to camp. Campers get to attend camp for one week each summer, where they are paired with a companion: a volunteer who spends the week with the camper. CQ was designed, as the slogan says, to “lift the spirits of children with cancer” to just be kids again. And that’s camp…well technically I guess but it is really so much more than that.
I started going to CQ in Thunder Bay the year it started there, in 2001; I was 8. We all met in the parking lot of a hotel for pick-up. I was sitting on the lap of my companion, who I had met maybe once before, within minutes. My mom and Dad were waving teary-eyed with all the other parents as they sent their baby away for the first time.
Little did I know that I would spend a week of my life for the next 10 summers doing things like swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, arts and crafts, motorcycle rides, tennis, and having awesome dance parties, campfires, karaoke nights, fashion shows, and water fights, just to name a few. I would make hundreds of friendships to last a lifetime, even if that lifetime was unfairly cut short by the very thing that brought us together in the first place.
When I joined camp, I truly joined a new family. My companion, Jill, has been with me for 8 years. It’s so weird for me to even call her my companion anymore as she has become so much more than that to me. She is my best friend and we have literally been through it all. I have probably had to take care of her as much as she does me. We will always be there for each other. A few years ago I took Jill to Toronto with me for follow-up appointments. She went to all of my appointments with me, even to hold my hand to get my IV. That ended with me holding her hand while a nurse ran to get her juice so poor Jill wouldn’t pass out.
And 2 years ago, I was invited to attend her wedding where I had the honour of watching her wed the man who will help me take care of her for the rest of her life, another CQ friend actually. Although, of course as I said, the taking care goes both ways. Jill’s taking care has included hauling me around on her back for the past 8 years, wrestling me out of my sleeping bag every morning at camp and guarding the shower with her life when we discovered hot water; a rare and exciting occurrence at camp.
I have so many crazy, obscene, unforgettable memories of camp. I’ve been told that camp is what you make it, but I don’t think there is a person at camp who would tell you it was anything less than exhilarating.
For me, pranks were always a huge part of camp. I remember one year up pranks on the internet. I spent hours typing up prank plans; complete with maps, procedure, and material lists for each individual prank. I remember the look on Jill’s face when I showed up to camp with a 2” binder and a Tupperware full of toilet paper, silly string, water balloons, and the likes.
Come to think of it, that was the same year the boys put worms in our beds.
Yes, real, slimy, dirt-covered worms. After coming back from tubing one day, Hannah, toes and fingers blue from the cold lake pulled back to her blankets only to scream in surprise at the sticky mess we had gotten ourselves into.
In their defense, I suppose if you dish it you gotta be able to take it too.
The boys assured us that they were only in beds with blankets not sleeping bags, but I will never forget climbing into my sleeping bag, exhausted at midnight and feeling cold, slimy worms on my legs.
As I said before, Camp Quality, being a cancer camp comes with a price.
Unfortunately, every so often we lose a member of the CQ family. And however unfair it is, I think it is a prime example of the friendships and family that is formed. Camp is coming together in those hard times. A friend will always be there for the good times, but a true friend will always be there for the bad. That’s what camp is…it’s having someone there when times are tough, and knowing that things will get better even when it seems nothing will ever be okay again.
It is being comfortable in the silences. It is being able to cry with a silent arm around your shoulder, and knowing that when the time comes that you want to talk there will without a doubt be someone there to listen and understand you. It is a safe place where everyone can be 100% themselves, and camp lets you be the best person that you can be. It truly does bring out the best in everyone.”
Well said Jo!
2012 Camp Quality Blog:
- Camp Quality Blog – Do you know the way to Camp Quality?
- Camp Quality 2012 Blog – Priorities and Packing for Camp Quality….
- Camp Quality believes in improving the quality of life for children with cancer
- Camp Quality – The $50 hotdog demonstrates how much people care
Camp Quality will be connected this year by Tbaytel with Internet from East Loon Lake at the Thunder Bay United Church Camp Duncan.