I started volunteering for Camp Oochigeas or “Ooch”, as a counsellor, the summer of 2011, after hearing about its magical and positive environment from a friend. I was eager to spend my two-week vacation in the Muskokas at the residential camp with a dynamic group of volunteers and enthusiastic campers.
Let me tell you, my experience at Ooch was nothing short of incredible.
Ooch is a privately funded, volunteer-based organization that provides kids with cancer, and kids affected by childhood cancer, a chance to experience camp. It provides a unique opportunity for growth through challenging, fun and enriching experiences. Enjoying the outdoors and having fun are two integral parts of being a child and every child deserves to experience the wonder of camp. Activities like canoeing, archery, swimming and waterskiing allow children with cancer to challenge themselves in a safe environment and get back to what they need most — the chance to just be kids.
During the eight weeks of residential camp, Ooch will see nearly 800 campers between the ages of 6–19 and 320 volunteer counselors. There is also team of volunteer oncologists and nurses from Sick Kids Med Shed Team, so the children who need it can receive treatment at camp.
In addition to summer residential camp, it provides year-round programs for children and families affected by childhood cancer at Sick Kids at Ooch Downtown, their urban camp facility.
Ooch provides a safe place for children, to just be themselves. They’re challenged to learn new skills, and try new activities. All victories are celebrated, whether it be climbing to the top of the rock wall, or getting in a canoe. The campers’ determination and courage inspire me to try new things, and overcome my fears. It is so encouraging to see campers cheering on their new friends as they tackle a new goal. Everyday after lunch, there is a time where the campers are able to stand up in front of the whole camp and give a friend a Step in the Right Direction who has met their goal, helped them with their goal or for just being a good friend. I loved seeing the children leave the camp, with more self-esteem and confidence. They had conquered so much by coming to camp, and they knew it.
I am so proud to be apart of such a passionate community of volunteers and staff that are so enthusiastic about bringing fun to these children. Campers, their families and the Ooch staff are always so appreciative of all our efforts, as volunteers. There is always a big smile or hug awaiting me when I walk in the door at Ooch.
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