13 year-old Aaron has multiple food allergies, meaning he must always carry an epi-pen for his safety. When Aaron is exposed to allergens, he has various reactions including breathing difficulties, that could potentially be life threatening. Aaron’s health challenge naturally impacts the places he and his family go and has consequently impacted his childhood opportunities.
“We always have to be careful.” says Aaron’s mum Shona. “And we are always on high alert. For example, Aaron had a reaction to a food that we had always known to be safe, because the recipe had been changed to include pea flour instead of wheat, which meant he had a serious reaction. Going out and eating are always times of caution and because of this, Aaron is permanently worried that he may be exposed to something he has an allergy to. He worries about things like tables not being washed properly. Understandably, he is nervous about going out, and obviously, if he isn’t happy, we aren’t happy.”
“Looking after Aaron has meant that often, Nathan, his younger brother, is unable to do the things he would like to do, which can be tough for him.” adds Shona. “For Nathan it can feel like the places we go are always Aaron’s choice, and sometimes there are things he’d like to do, foods he’d like to eat, but he can’t because of Aaron’s allergies. Which is why camp is so great for them both.”
Camp – a place for fun and laughter
When Shona and the boys discovered Over The Wall camp, they found a world of fun in a completely safe environment, “Aaron and Nathan loved camp- they went twice and had so much fun. They had found a place where they needn’t worry and could just enjoy themselves. Also, I knew they were safe as I’d been so impressed with how organised and professional camp was. I felt confident to leave them in the care of Over The Wall.”
Aaron and his 11-year-old brother Nathan had both applied for camp in 2020, but unfortunately, the outbreak of Coronavirus meant that camps across the UK were cancelled. “Obviously they were both very disappointed when they heard camp was cancelled as they love going away, having the fun and banter and being silly for a week.”
As an alternative, Over The Wall created an interactive online platform called Camp in the Cloud which was designed specifically for the children who were scheduled to attend camp in 2020. The aim was to bring the joy and magic of the physical camps into each families’ home.
“They absolutely loved Camp in the Cloud.” Said Shona. “They were so excited when they got the boxes through the post. Aaron did his activities without Nathan seeing, as he didn’t want to ruin the surprise, but most of the activities were different anyway. They especially enjoyed the mystery, escape box and loved the activity where they used their phones to look after a virtual pet and take selfies with it!”
Relief during Lockdown
“We were in lockdown and so having a virtual camp was great timing for them.” said Shona. “It gave them so much to do, things to think about and kept them occupied. It also cheered them up. It gave them time to chat with other children they met online, and with Over The Wall staff. It was wonderful for them to speak to the other campers, the chat time meant they could have a carry on, a joke and a laugh, which they really needed. They knew that James at Over The Wall was scared of spiders, so they got a Halloween spider out to scare him on the screen. They found that really funny!”
“Having a laugh in lockdown for them was really important. They could also forget what was going on outside. Having things to do kept them busy and really helped them whilst they were inside. Camp in the Cloud was a lot like camp- obviously it could never be as good – but for the boys, the experience was as best as it could be. It was great that Over The Wall could reach out to the children and give them something so wonderful, when nothing else was available to them.”
Aaron said, “It felt good being involved in Camp in the Cloud I enjoyed being able to see people and sharing a joke and laugh with them over the internet. I also felt good when people liked the pictures of the things I had made. I enjoyed setting the challenges for the other teams at cabin chat. I also enjoyed seeing what other people had done and the nice comments people gave each other when they saw what they had done with their activities. Camp in the Cloud also kept me in touch with Over The Wall which was really fun. It reminded me I am not the only person with medical problems as when I am at home I am the only person that needs medical care and has to be careful what I eat, and always have to carry my medicine around with me. Over The Wall had thought of everything I needed for the week including hot chocolate for cabin chat.”
Aaron’s brother Nathan also enjoyed Camp in the Cloud and commented, “I really liked the excitement of all the activities and wondering what else I was going to do during the week. It made me happy as I could not go and play with my friends due to the virus. It meant I had things to do and everything I needed for the activities including face paint, which was in the box, so I was able to do all the activities!”