James and Daisy’s story

James (nine) and his older sister Daisy (11) recently went to their first five-night Over The Wall residential camp for children with long term health conditions and their siblings. James was a Bader Brave; his place at camp was funded by the Douglas Bader Foundation. The foundation promotes and supports those born with a limb difference and other physical disabilities. We’re incredibly grateful to the Douglas Bader Foundation not only for funding a place for James, but for providing £25,000 this year to fund 35 Bader Braves at camp, to help those with limb difference experience the mischief and magic that an Over The Wall camp has to offer. We spoke to their Mum, Joanna, to find out how camp has impacted their family:

Applying to camp

We heard about Over The Wall through Reach, a charity that supports children with upper limb differences. James had just come back from a two-night school residential and really enjoyed it. We thought it was worth applying to, especially as Over The Wall camp invites siblings along too. We thought it sounded amazing! Once I started the application process, I wondered if this camp was for children with more significant kinds of challenges and disabilities. I worried I was taking a place from a child who needed that opportunity. 

Speaking to the OTW team

I spoke to the Over The Wall  team who reassured me that they have had many children with limb differences come to camp before, and that we weren’t taking a place from anyone. Once the children came back from camp, I realised the spectrum of long term health conditions that Over The Wall caters for. The differing needs of your child compared to the next camper is not something to feel bad about. I asked James and Daisy if they had met anyone else with health challenges and they said they hadn’t. This is such a testament to how well the camp manages those kinds of medical needs that the children didn’t notice. The sense I got from the pre-camp call and when they came back was how much it’s about kids having an amazing time together, with the support to make it accessible for children with a whole range of needs.

Supportive siblings

It was great that James had his sister at camp with him. Daisy was keen to go, whereas James was more nervous. Given how long the camp was, he was more confident knowing his sister would be there too. After the pre-camp call, they were both even more excited to go once they found out the types of activities they’d be doing at camp. They’re less than two years apart, so they’re quite good mates. He was pleased that he’d see her at mealtimes but they ended up seeing much more of each other. Their teams took part in some activities, like dragon’s den and graffiti art, together. James loved hitting the target in archery as well as playing with the Lego alongside his new friends. Daisy’s favourite activity was the escape room. They are both quite sporty and enjoy baking together. 

My team was great, the volunteers were really fun. There were lots of magic tricks and dad jokes going around. Try and make friends earlier on so you can get to know them a bit better and be their friend for the whole week. My favourite song was the duck song!

A boost in confidence

James was born with a limb difference. We worried that he might struggle to accept it or fit in with his peers at school. However, our reality is entirely different. For anyone who has known James for any length of time, his limb difference is rarely talked about. When he’s around new people, they might try to talk about it, to which – depending on how James feels that day – he’ll tell them about it. When he gets bored of explaining it, he tells them a shark bit his limb off when he was on holiday! Experiences like camp, where he’s surrounded by new people, contribute to his confidence in advocating for himself when needed.

Going to camp is nothing to be worried about. It’s really fun. My favourite camp song was the Jeep song!

Camp is a safe place for everyone

Daisy was diagnosed with coeliac disease when she was three-and-a half-years-old. It runs in the family – myself and a few other relatives have it. Daisy’s a lot more sensitive to it than I am though, which makes her conscious of going out to restaurants or going away on residentials. The great thing about camp was how ‘on it’ they were even before she arrived. This reassured her that there would be plenty of food for her to eat so she wouldn’t have to worry or check packaging.

A lasting impact

In terms of the impact of camp, I see it as part of a continual journey. Camp helps to continue to support the kids having that sense that all kids are different and that’s normal. I think it’s good for both of them to see children with different health conditions and disabilities to normalise it. The reality is they may not see that day-to-day, so it’s always a good thing to have that opportunity. It’s not a big deal. They’re accepting of people who have different needs, but it’s not the thing that defines them.

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