Charlie is a nine-year-old boy with a number of health challenges including severe asthma, multiple allergies, eosinophilic esophagitis (an allergic inflammatory disease of the oesophagus), reflux, hyper mobility issues, dyspraxia and eczema, as well as other additional health challenges linked with these conditions.
Charlie’s health has had an enormous impact on his childhood and as a result of continued illness, Charlie has developed a fear of hospitals, nurses and doctors. “I’m a nurse-myself,” explains Charlie’s mum Hollie, “But there was a stage when Charlie would have panic attacks when I went to work, as he was worried about me being in the hospital.”
Charlie’s health conditions inevitably impose other restrictions on his life, as Hollie explains, “Charlie needs a lot of care. He can’t just go out and eat, he cannot be independent- like many boys his age could. He has so many different allergies that he would struggle to remember what he can and cannot have. We can’t go out without preparation either, even on holidays, I have to take a suitcase of food. He is also anxious in certain situations and dislikes loud noises.”
“He’s been in and out of hospital his whole life, and this has really taken a toll on him.”
It was on a Facebook forum for parents with children that have eosinophilic esophagitis that Hollie came across a post about Over The Wall’s camps.
“I spoke to a friend who had added the Facebook post. Her children had been to camp, and after that I applied straight away. Our application was successful, and we attended Scotland Family Camp. My mum came too as she is often Charlie’s carer.”
“We arrived at camp, and Charlie was very nervous at first, especially around the noise, but the staff helped him. They were fantastic. It was incredible- after one hour he was singing and dancing, and even going off in little groups with other campers! He’s never done that before. Even if we were to go to the park or on a holiday. He would never go off with other children.”
“Charlie absolutely loved every single second of camp. He made friends with other children, which was great, and we met several other families that we still talk to on Facebook. We are even talking about meeting up again.”
“In fact, Charlie had a meltdown at the end of camp, as he didn’t want to leave. He got under the chairs, he was so sad. He had enjoyed camp that much.”
“It’s amazing when you think, he went from being a child that was too shy to join in – to one that was devastated to have to leave.”
Returning to camp
After the Scotland Family Camp, Hollie applied for another camp, and this time Charlie’s confidence grew even more. “He was totally different at the second camp, he even tried the climbing wall!” adds Hollie, “He was so pleased with himself when he reached the top. Normally he would give up on something like that. But here, he carried on, and he made it.”
“Performing in front of others, dancing and being a bit daft, are things you wouldn’t ever catch Charlie doing. He’d be the kid hiding behind me or just sat down – but there he was, at camp, up in front of a room full of people dancing, like everyone else.”
“By the second camp, he was even more relaxed about food. He was joining in, walking around talking to all the volunteers. He even looked after another boy who was at camp for the first time, and helped and encouraged him to join in.”
“I’ve never known Charlie to be as confident as he is when he is at camp. He’s also a lot more confident when he returns home. He is constantly talking about camp and reflecting on it. I know he thinks about how well he did, and most importantly, what he’s capable of.”