“Speaking to parents with children who have health challenges makes you feel you aren’t alone.” – Family Camp in the Cloud
When Jamie, the youngest member of the Johnson family, was just two years old, he was diagnosed with haemophilia. Naturally, the risk of trauma-related bleeding episodes and brain damage hugely impacted Jamie’s childhood.
The Johnson family were further affected by illness when Jamie’s brother Alex, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as a teenager. During these years, Alex had to be fed via a gastric tube, which had a significant impact on his body, mind, and confidence.
“Lifelong illness had a huge effect on all of us”, said Jamie and Alex’s mum, Jane. “At a time when Jamie should have had the freedom of childhood, he needed close supervision and monitoring. When Alex should have been making friends and becoming more independent, his confidence was lost, and he became more dependent”
When Jane and the family discovered Over The Wall residential camps, they found a way that the boys could regain some of the independence and fun lost as a result of illness. “Over The Wall, camp became their favourite holiday,” said Jane- “They loved everything about it, the activities, meeting other children with illnesses, the staff and the support they offered. It made a huge change.”
Family Camp in the Cloud
Following the Coronavirus outbreak, Over The Wall’s residential camps were cancelled and as a result, the online, interactive platform, ‘Camp in the Cloud’ was developed as an alternative that could be accessed from a family’s home.
“Camp in the Cloud came at the best time for us. We were shielding so my husband wasn’t at work, the children weren’t at school- and no one was visiting. At a time when we couldn’t do anything, or go anywhere, we suddenly had this packed schedule of amazing things to do, all in complete safety, which was really lovely. We would look at the calendar, at the days ahead and say- ‘right, that day we are doing that together – and on this day we’ll do that’– and every moment we spent doing the activities together was special.”
“Jamie has never really concentrated when creating artwork, But he did during Camp in the Cloud. He made a beautiful picture with watercolours, which he was really proud of. He had never done anything like that before. He never had the focus or inclination and hadn’t received the encouragement that Over The Wall gave him. It was wonderful that he tried these new things. He loved seeing images of other children’s work too. I have a picture of him doing Camp in the Cloud activities as my screensaver on my phone. You can see from his face that he was genuinely happy in that moment.”
“For Alex- as an older child, Camp in the Cloud gave him the opportunity to make contact and stay in touch with all the people he had met previously at Over The Wall’s physical camps. He now spends time online gaming and chatting with them and has really developed friendships.”
“We also found it very easy to complete the online application process, and have now recommended Camp in the Cloud to other families.”
As an online camp for the whole family, the activities were based around all the members’ involvement, which gave the Johnson’s a chance to spend some valuable time together.
“Camp in the Cloud gave us quality time to be a family.” said Jane, “My husband and Jamie did a ‘Who done it?’ challenge together, which took them a long time- but they did it! It was fantastic for them to be working together like that.”
“The activities gave us the chance to have one to one time with the boys as we worked in pairs which was perfect- but we did do the family quiz all together. It’s not something we would have normally done, but we had a great time and a good laugh trying it. Everything was readily available in the box for us- so we never passed the time trying to find resources, look up how to do anything, or prepare in any way, it was all ready, and set for a scheduled time, which encourages you to do it.”
“Just thinking about all those moments, brings back some really happy memories – and if I’m honest, after a long time shielding, Camp in the Cloud was probably the best memory we have for that year.”
As a family camp, Camp in the Cloud also offered parent activities and adult interaction opportunities, which Jane also found useful.
“The sessions for adults were great! It was really fun to get involved in the adult quiz, but most importantly it was a unique opportunity for us grownups to offer peer support to each other. Speaking to parents with children who have health challenges makes you feel you aren’t alone.”
“It’s nice to do that as it gives you a feeling of hope- and you can also give people who are at different stages to you hope too. It’s a tool to both give and receives. I can’t think of anything apart from Camp in the Cloud that has done that for us.”
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the family.