The sun shone as brightly as the smiles on the faces of the 12 special families who recently attended Camp Brainwave NSW, at Point Wolstoncroft Sport and Recreation Centre in Gwandalan. From Friday 14 – Sunday 16 June, families joined Brainwave staff and volunteers for a fabulous, adventure-packed weekend away.
As the only charity that focuses on all paediatric neurological conditions – brain illness and brain injury in children, Brainwave Australia has been hosting family camps since 2010. Camp Brainwave is one of our programs available for children and their families, to promote social engagement with other families in the same situation, enabling them to share their day to day challenges and empowering them to build support networks. Camp Brainwave NSW 2019 delivered all of this and more, with the enthusiastic participation of the Brainwave children and families who attended.
To help campers get to know each other, everyone participated in a series of entertaining ice-breaker games on the Friday evening. This set the tone for a weekend of friendship and fun to follow.
Campers awoke to glorious sunshine on Saturday morning, highlighting the stunning setting of Point Wolstoncroft, on the shores of Lake Macquarie, surrounded by pristine forest filled with animals and native birds. After breakfast, the activity program kicked off, with families dividing into activity groups, testing their balance kayaking on the lake and racing each other up the rock-climbing wall.
In the afternoon, fears were conquered on the giant swing, campers tested their aim at archery and crawled through obstacles in the underground darkness of the wombat hole.
It was so heart-warming to see children and adults alike displaying such courage, tenacity and camaraderie as they supported and encouraged each other through each challenge. Their smiles of pride after each new achievement were infectious.
Brainwave Mum Kym summed up her family’s experience at camp with, “…the whole camp was truly an amazing experience that our family will have great memories of and will be forever thankful for. Camp has changed our lives by giving us back laughter and excitement…”
Creating connections and sharing stories is an important part of Camp Brainwave. After a full day of activities, parents had the opportunity for some child-free time socialising together. Parents really enjoyed this time as it was an opportunity to share their family’s story and experiences with other parents who are going through a similar journey. During this time the children were treated to a special Kinder + Sport Joy of Moving program session, with fun and active games led by Derek Lath, Institutional Affairs Director of Ferrero Australia, assisted by the volunteers.
On the Saturday evening, families gathered around the campfire, where they enjoyed cooking damper and toasting marshmallows, whilst being treated to a night of musical entertainment by the talented Dave Mason-Cox. Everyone enjoyed singing along with Dave as he gave a special acoustic fireside performance, with a great mix of songs, and even a special guest appearance by camper Austin on guitar!
The campsite echoed with laughter on Sunday morning during the competitive fun of the kids/volunteers vs parents volleyball match, before groups set off for their final activities. After lunch a farewell ceremony was held, at which all children were awarded camp participation certificates and each family received a gift bag of chocolates generously donated by Ferrero. Then it was time for hugs and tears as new friends bid each other farewell, with promises to stay in touch long after camp.
We received an overwhelmingly positive response from participants to being connected to families whose “normal” is their “normal”; providing an incredible sense of dignity and inclusion when families need it most. This would not have been possible without our community and corporate volunteers, Jorge, Jatinder, Gita, Ben, Junyi, Lauren, Emma, Adele, Isleny and Meifang, who worked tirelessly across the weekend to help support families. Their positive energy and wonderful contribution to camp was invaluable. Also, to the talented and caring Sport and Recreation NSW team at Point Wolstoncroft who ensured a fabulous weekend was had by all.
As Brainwave’s Program Manager, Suzy Canadi explains, “Camp Brainwave makes a real difference, enabling these kids to just be kids - for the Brainwave child and siblings alike to have fun and laugh together brings us all joy beyond words.”