Camper's Story: Hailey Grace
Tour for Kids Impact: Gerard MacDonald
Camp Counsellor's Story: Cassidy Tully
Camp Counsellor's Story: Bhreaugh Castellani
Tour for Kids Impact: Margaret Baird-Fiddes
Hailey Grace Rodenhiser: 10 years old, two years as camper. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at 7 years of age.
When was your first time at camp?
First time at camp was August 2016. Wanted to attend camp in 2015 but treatment time was that week so I could not go.
How did you hear about camp?
Heard about camp through the IWK oncology department.
What’s your favourite activity?
Doing the pursuit activity because I get to choose what I like to do.
How do you feel when you attend camp?
When I attend camp I feel awesome because I get to meet new people with things in common.
What do you wish more people knew about camp?
I wish more people knew that camp is really fun because we have daily camp fires and sing songs. Every year we get to dress the counselors up. We always put them in the funniest costumes. Last year we dressed our counselor up as a clown thingy ….it was so funny. My camp friends understand more about what we have gone through. I don’t see camp friends very often so we have a lot to share when we do see each other.
What’s the best/worst part about camp?
The best thing about camp is the meals. The food there is awesome. The worst thing about camp is having to go to bed early.
Gerard MacDonald: 8 time Tour for Kids rider. Gerard describes himself as a 63 year old geezer (we completely disagree!) physician from Amherst NS who loves to cycle, run and ski, but given his limited athletic prowess will keep his day job!
What brings you back to Tour for Kids?
A compelling cause to help allow children dealing with cancer to just be a kid and go to camp for a week.
Describe how it feels when you arrive at camp after cycling?
A sense of accomplishment and relief, yes, but when I am at camp my age magically shrinks to 10 and I see the world through the eyes of a child.
What message do you take home after Tour for Kids?
While modern medical care is essential for these brave children, treating their souls in a nurturing fun environment such as camp is equally important, and Tour for Kids validates this for me year after year.
Describe your experience in one sentence
A joyful weekend shared with like minded friends for a greater cause.
Cassidy Tully: Student at Dalhousie University in the Therapeutic Recreation program. Camp counsellor at Brigadoon Village since 2016.
When did you know you wanted to be a counsellor?
There was no specific moment I decided I wanted to be counsellor. I love kids and camp and thought it would be a great learning opportunity.
How has camp impacted you?
The camp experience has changed my life. I have a new appreciation and outlook on life and health. Since beginning my camp counsellor experience, I have learned more than I thought possible, I’ve been challenged outside of my comfort zone, tried new things, all while having a blast with some amazing kids. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, with some of the most valuable life lessons. I wouldn’t want to spend the summer any other way. I will always be grateful for the experience.
What’s your favourite camper story?
Way too many favourite stories to pick just one! One of my favourite things that happens at camp is when a camper opens up to their peers. When you walk in late at night to say, try and keep the noise levels down and they’re actually all just exchanging stories of their time in the hospital, what type of cancer they had, procedures/medications they have in common. They have this immediate connection and create a strong bond with the other campers because they can understand what they have been through. Talking about their personal experience with other campers brings a certain sense of relief they can’t find anywhere else. Even more than that, watching all the campers have a stress-free week, outside, with tons of fun activities, that’s priceless. There is always a lot of emotion on departure day because they have had such a special and memorable week.
Are campers different when their parents aren’t around – if so how?
Sure, I think especially for kids who have spent a lot of their childhood in hospitals around adults, coming to camp gives them a freedom, they haven’t had before. It’s nice to watch them open up with other kids their age who have a similar experience. The campers are free to be themselves in a supportive and safe environment. The week at camp helps them develop an independence, try new things, and allows them to make memories and friendships they’ll never forget.
What’s the difference between cancer camps and other camps?
There may be a little more love and understanding and the bonds a little stronger because of all they have experienced. I think it’s a very inclusive environment where no one ever feels alone. Camp is the most special place, where kids are free to be silly, make friends, and be themselves. The campers are super appreciative, happy to be at camp, and really take every moment in. At the end of the day though it’s camp and they’re just kids and they want to experience camp worry free just as other kids do.
Bhreaugh Castellani: Counsellor 5 years Goodtime Counsellor, 10 years camper
When did you know you wanted to be a counsellor?
I knew I wanted to be a counsellor after my very first week at camp. I was awed by the transformative power of camp and continued to grow, thrive, gain confidence, make and maintain friends, and most importantly, become the person I was always meant to be.
How did attending a camp for children with cancer impact you?
At camp- cancer stops being this really scary thing that makes everyone nervous. It stops being what makes us different. It stops being what marked our childhoods as “the little girl who had cancer”. At camp, cancer is what unites us. It is the reason we all get to have the very best week of our lives.
What do you want people to know about the campers?
Our scars, the bald heads, the being treated like glass- this all disappears when all of those campers get together under the summer sun for a week of friendship, laughter, confidence, swimming, dancing, playing, creating – just being kids, not “the kids with cancer.”
What makes camp unique?
Seeing the grown-ups with cancer, or cancer histories, or a sibling impacted by cancer- experiencing the exact same things alongside the little ones. As a camper, I remember seeing fun, active, healthy counsellors with the same scars as me. I saw other counsellors who weren’t as healthy, but still having an incredible week, supported by their friends. I saw the same friendships I was forming with my eight-year-old friends, happening with the counsellors.
Why do you feel camp in important?
At camp, it’s not only the norm- but the reason we get to have the most amazing week with the most incredible people there are. Camp helps kids reclaim their cancer diagnoses as something powerful, hopeful, and positive- something that can help transform their lives, through camp, and help them become the people they were always meant to be.
I attended Camp at seven years old. Kids with cancer are often the “others” at school- the ones everyone is nice too, the ones that your friends’ parents worry about at sleepovers, the ones who miss gym class for appointments. These kids, myself included, might not look or act different, but definitely feel different because of their diagnosis and all that it entails, long after the cancer is gone.
Margaret Baird-Fiddes: 2018 will be the second year my husband, son Ben and I will be volunteering with Tour for Kids.
How did you become involved with Tour for Kids?
My husband was involved with the National Ride in 2016. He met some amazing people. I wasn’t able to be away & volunteer for the National Ride – so volunteering for the Tour for Kids was a great fit for me.
Why do you volunteer?
It’s fun and my family are meeting wonderful people! We work hard and have some great laughs. After all, what’s a little hard work when you see where the funds are going, Brigadoon Village and the experience that it gives the kids!
What message do you take home with you after volunteering with Tour for Kids?
Whether you’re a cyclist or a volunteer, we can help make a difference in the life of a child. And that’s by giving them the opportunity to go to Brigadoon Village. Our little bit of work, gives the children a wonderful experience.