Every year, Over The Wall relies on around 700 volunteers to help support our campers and bring the magic to camp. Here, we speak to Sue Wakefield, a volunteer who, by the end of 2019, would have volunteered at 14 camps in just three years. Sue, a self-confessed ‘volunteer addict’, has gone the extra mile to help OTW on several occasions, which is why we recently nominated her for a Room to Reward award …
How Sue discovered camp
Three years ago, Sue decided that she would like to volunteer for a children’s charity and so, after a short internet search, she found herself on the volunteer page of the Over The Wall website. As someone who has suffered with epilepsy since she was a child, the idea of a camp that catered for children with serious illness immediately resonated with her.
As a result of her epilepsy, Sue was recently required to give up her full-time job, which meant she suddenly had the spare time to volunteer and support a worthy cause. After that initial discovery of OTW camp, Sue signed up without hesitation.
Fast forward three years, and Sue has now volunteered at a staggering ten different OTW camps. She is also registered to volunteer at a further four camps this year and will volunteer for another two with OTW’s sister camp (and fellow SeriousFun partner), Barretstown in Ireland.
The wonder of OTW
“I absolutely love camp!” says Sue, “I find it so inspiring. I’m what you might call a volunteer addict. Of course, I’m exhausted afterwards – but that’s fine. I’m 50 now, but the beauty of camp is that you meet volunteers in all walks of life and in all age groups and because I don’t work, I have this wonderful opportunity to be able to attend more camps than many other volunteers are able to”.
Sue’s flexibility has meant that on many occasions, she has stepped in and volunteered at the very last minute, when OTW has needed help as other volunteers have had to cancel. She has travelled to South, Midland and Scotland camps.
“There is something quite incredible about seeing a camper arrive and then watching them blossom and find themselves” says Sue. “And it’s the same for siblings. Often, they aren’t the first priority at home, but at camp its suddenly all about them – and I love that.”
Sue’s health and childhood illness
Sue’s epilepsy currently causes her to experience up to five nocturnal seizures per week, but because they occur at night, she can still volunteer at camp. “I had my first seizure in a maths lesson at school” says Sue. “I remember waking up in the ambulance. I think I was in denial as a child and refused to face the fact that I had epilepsy, despite having at least one seizure a week at school. It became so common, that people at my school used to call the ambulance, ‘Sue’s taxi’. I learnt to laugh about it – which really helped.”
“Having been a child with an illness, I can totally empathise with the children I volunteer with – even though many of them are living with conditions far more challenging than I ever experienced.”
Going that extra mile
Recently, Over The Wall nominated Sue to be a candidate for ‘Room to Reward’ a unique volunteer-recognition initiative, that aims to say ‘thank you’ to the ‘hidden heroes’ and inspirational volunteers who give up their time to make a difference to those who need it most. Here the hotels which partner with Room to Reward donate their unsold rooms, to provide a free, much-needed break. Sue opted to spend her much-deserved reward time in York.
The nomination was made as, despite experiencing a challenging year herself, Sue supported OTW whenever help was needed, and even did the same for Barretstown in their moment of need.
In the Room for Reward nomination, OTW’s Head of Volunteering described Sue as a fantastic role model, who never let her own health condition, or the complexities of life ever get in the way of her being extra supportive, inclusive and most of all, fun.
Without volunteers like Sue we would be in danger of not serving the young people and families that we do. The reward was just one way we could thank her for going that extra mile for OTW and the campers we support.