Camp Brainwave VIC 2018 turned on the fun for happy campers!

The sun shone brightly as Team Brainwave travelled to Camp Manyung in Mt Eliza, on Friday 19 October, for Camp Brainwave Victoria. A highlight of the annual events calendar, Camp Brainwave is a highly-anticipated weekend away for Brainwave families.

Developed as part of our care programs, Camp Brainwave aims to provide a unique opportunity for our wonderful families to break from their daily routines, undertaking fun challenges and sharing experiences in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Importantly, it helps facilitate new and continued friendships and build vital support networks that we know will last well beyond the weekend.

This year, seventeen lucky families from across Victoria were given this opportunity, from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 September. Uniquely, Brainwave camps are inclusive of the whole family, and our most recent two-and-a-half-day, adventure-packed weekend, was a resounding success.

The weekend kicked off with some entertaining ice-breaker games after dinner on Friday evening, to help our campers get to know each other. We then ventured outside to view the moon through powerful telescopes that the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society (MPAS) had set up on the oval. Although cloud-cover somewhat hampered clear views of the moon, stars and planets, we then moved indoors for an informative presentation by MPAS about the solar system. A highlight was the chance for everyone to hold a meteorite!

Consistent rain throughout the morning on Saturday didn’t dampen the spirits of our resilient Brainwave children and families, who were eager to get out and tackle the exciting challenge activities, after enjoying a hearty breakfast. Families rotated between three activities which provided opportunities for personal growth and conquering fears through promoting positive self-esteem, confidence and interaction with others. Under the guidance of the highly trained and professional YMCA team and supported by Brainwave volunteers and staff, it was great to see the children taking aim at the bullseye as they learnt archery skills.  At the tree rolling course, children journeyed through the treetops on foot, on scooters or in their wheelchairs, traversing the course well above ground level with challenging obstacles, before finishing off with adventures on the flying fox. The ever-popular giant swing gave participants the chance to reach new heights, whilst safely suspended in a climbing or seated harness. They displayed great courage when releasing themselves from the haul rope at high elevation, and the looks of satisfaction on their faces when free-falling was a delight to watch.

To see children and adults supporting one another, and the sense of pride in the children as they undertake and conquer each challenge, shared by their parents who watch in awe from the sidelines, is a genuinely heart-warming moment and a unique opportunity that Camp Brainwave gives these willing families.

After lunch the skies cleared and we all walked to beautiful Sunnyside Beach to relax in the fresh air and open space. For the energetic campers there were fun games including tug of war, sack races, and digging ‘bunny holes’ in the sand. There was also the chance to explore the rockpools and create sand sculptures, and thanks to Mr Martha Life Saving Club, we were able to roll out the ‘grey carpet’ and wheel the chairs onto the beach over their wheelchair-accessible matting.

Creating connections and sharing stories is an important part of Camp Brainwave—reducing social isolation is central to Brainwave’s work around providing meaningful support to children and their families impacted by neurological conditions. After a full day of activities, parents also had the opportunity to have some child-free time, socialising together during ‘happy hour’ where they enjoyed cheese, nibbles, beer and wine. Parents really enjoy this time as it is an opportunity to share their family’s story and experiences with other parents who are going through a similar journey.

The children were entertained by our dedicated and fun-loving community volunteers from Mercedes-Benz and QBE.  Without these exceptional individuals camp would not have been such an outstanding success.

Dream Puppets also surprised the children with an amazing puppet show called “Dreamer in Space”. The entire performance, by a solo puppeteer, was backlit, with the puppets and props glowing in fluorescent colours to awesome visual effect. There was no dialogue; the story was told with action and stunning visual images, giving an incredible sensory experience.  The children and adults alike were captivated by the puppet Dreamer’s adventures through space and there was much laughter and many squeals of delight as we were swept along on his journey through the universe - visiting exotic planets and meeting colourful alien characters. This was a puppet show like no other, that will be long remembered by all who saw it.

As the saying goes, all great things must come to an end, and on Sunday afternoon Camp Brainwave Victoria for 2018 came to a close. At our farewell ceremony, all children received a camp participation pack that included a certificate of participation, Ferrero chocolates and their ‘fuzzy bags’ that were filled with inspirational and personal messages from co-campers, collected over the course of the weekend.

Summing up the Camp Brainwave experience for her family, Annette told us, We watched our kids participate and enjoy every activity. We watched them make friends, have fun and laugh. We couldn’t believe we left our cabin in the early morning and didn’t go back until bed time! The amazing support from the Brainwave staff, volunteers and activity staff gave us the confidence to try everything. The Brainwave kids, siblings and parents were all caring, appreciative, encouraging, understanding and respectful. We didn’t stand out, we fit in! When the camp came to an end, I found myself feeling very emotional! I think it’s because I was so proud of all of us, getting out of our comfort zone, trying new things, keeping up. I was overwhelmed by the other families, their struggles, their beautiful children, their team work, their strength, transparency and understanding. I found it so hard to say goodbye to the staff as they did more than they will ever know. We came back a stronger family!” 

There are many elements that make Camp Brainwave the successful event that it is! Our inspirational families and their positivity are key to its success, as are the generous staff and volunteers who work so tirelessly and with such powerful energy to support Brainwave to give our happy campers a weekend to remember.

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