Take 16 families of children with neurological conditions and their mums, dads, siblings and carers from around Victoria, add a flying fox, a giant swing, rock climbing, archery, a wildlife encounter, bush dancing and a cosy campfire, and you have Camp Brainwave, which kicked off last Friday 24 October at the YMCA’s picturesque Mt Evelyn Recreation Camp at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges.
The two-and-a-half day adventure camp was a free, much-loved weekend away for kids from Elwood to Mount Beauty living with neurological conditions as diverse as epilepsy, brain tumours, cerebral palsy and acquired brain injuries. An annual event, it is funded by Brainwave Australia, a Melbourne-based national charity offering practical financial and emotional support to families in need, and delivered with help from Brainwave volunteers.
For five-year-old Max Richardson, Camp Brainwave is a highly anticipated weekend away for his whole family. At only four weeks of age Max was diagnosed with Ohtahara Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy involving continuous infantile spasms, which has led to right sided weakness, intellectual delays, along with developmental delays with Max’s speech and cognition. This year marked the third anniversary of participation at Camp Brainwave for Max, his parents and his older brother Isaac, aged 8.
Despite Max’s trials, he is a curious, gentle spirit who enjoys music, swinging and jumping on the trampoline, and the adventure packed weekend was thoroughly enjoyed by not only Max and his brother Isaac, but all of the children who attended Camp Brainwave.
Brainwave Chairman David Blackley says families under pressure look forward all year to the fun, friendship and stress relief offered by Camp Brainwave. “Events like this not only give joy to these brave children but also offer a welcome escape from the daily challenges parents and siblings face,” Mr Blackley said. “It’s a chance to connect with others and enjoy a weekend away. It’s important for families to realise that they are not alone in their situation – there are others in the same boat.”
According to child psychologist Sandy Rea, some of our most long lasting childhood memories are made through play and laughter. “Play can heal emotional wounds suffered by both the able child and the child with the illness,” Rae said. “It can help to heal resentments, disagreements and hurts. It relieves stress, fostering flexibility and helping children to adapt and solve problems. Allowing siblings the freedom to play together increases their understanding of each other’s emotions, thoughts, intentions and beliefs, and it is a powerful time to transform and manage any negative emotions that siblings may have developed between each other.”