“For me, seeing this transformation happen to 60+ children every camp is just incredible”.
Our CEO, Kevin Mathieson, tells us why he loves working for Over The Wall.
“A number of years ago, after retiring from my first career, I was carrying out volunteer work when I saw an advert from Over the Wall asking for volunteers to help support a weeklong residential camp for children living with serious illness. It sounded very different and so I applied and after completing the application process I was offered a role at their Scottish camp in Perthshire. The experience just blew me away.
My first role was to travel to Edinburgh Children’s Hospital in the camp minibus to meet the campers and their parents. I recall seeing a young girl aged about 9, who I assumed was being treated for cancer as she was wearing a wig, looking very apprehensive and hanging on to her mum. Her parents told me how anxious they were feeling about her going away, but their daughter had seen the camp advertised whilst in hospital and had asked to attend. I promised I would call that evening and give them updates during the week and would arrange for their daughter to be returned home if things didn’t work out for her.
The camp went smoothly for this young girl, so much so that her wig was discarded after her first day and I kept her parents updated. On the last day of camp, they called to ask if they could come and collect her, and I met them just as the final lunch was finishing. I took them into the dining hall, (imagine Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films) and the whole place was jumping, with more than 60 boisterous children and a similar number of adult volunteers and staff, all dancing and singing the camp songs at the top of their voices for the last time with lots of painted faces and a great many dressed up in a variety of costumes.
As we stood at the back of the hall, I pointed out their daughter. Their little girl – who they had watched for three years battle cancer, not seeing her friends, not seeing her enjoy herself – was there with her wig off, in fancy dress, dancing away with her new-found friends and singing at the top of her voice. They stood there in amazement with tears of joy streaming down their faces, and I joined them. It was such an emotional moment, and it epitomises what Over the Wall camps are all about.
The most common message we get from parents, year after year, is about how we have given them their son/daughter back, the happy child they thought they had lost because of illness.
For me, seeing this transformation happen to 60+ children every camp is just incredible and when I was asked to come and work for the charity as CEO a decade ago, it was a very easy decision. I am in such a privileged position and do all I can to make sure this amazing charity grows and grows to serve many more vulnerable children and family members.
During COVID we’ve run services online with Camp in the Cloud, but we hope to be able to resume our residential camps in 2022. If you’d like to volunteer, support our work or get involved in any way, we’d love to hear from you.