Creating lasting friendships at Camp Goodtimes
A cancer diagnosis is life-changing at any age and it can be especially difficult for young children who should be focused on just being kids. But volunteers at Camp Goodtimes are committed to creating strong bonds between campers, so they can grow and develop beyond their diagnoses together.
Phyllis Branch is one of the volunteer nurses at Camp Goodtimes. By making sure campers' medical needs are met, she helped create an experience that families can return to every year, to create new memories and enjoy and the adventure of childhood.
When a colleague recommended she look into volunteer opportunities at Camp Goodtimes, Phyllis didn’t know what to expect. But as she looks back, she remembers being immediately surprised and impressed with the unique and joyful environment that the other counsellors created. That feeling has stayed with her ever since.
Whenever I come back, I just feel so happy when I’m there. It makes me feel really good that I can be a part of something that makes the lives of children normal and happy. When I treat them, it’s a much different environment. But being here, I get to see the strength that they developed when going through treatment. And then I get to see them changing and growing and developing even more.
Phyllis has now met many parents who were initially hesitant to send their children to Camp Goodtimes. But their minds were changed after seeing the quality of care and attention that Phyllis and the other volunteers offered when planning the activities.
Other medically trained professionals and young adults run the camp every year. They are trained in disabilities and inclusion, to make sure that no child is left out of activities and events. Their attention to detail amazes Phyllis whenever she works alongside them. The volunteers are always able to quickly adapt to campers' specific needs.
"Regardless of any challenge that they face, they are dedicated to giving these kids an incredible experience."
At Camp Goodtimes, many children and families have met each other because of their connection to Phyllis. She is now very proud that she was able to bring together people who have now grown closer and formed lasting friendships. “I remember two young boys that I treated when they were probably 2 years old,” says Phyllis. “They didn’t know each other beforehand, but once they started attending camp at age 7, they realized they both knew me and quickly became friends. Now, they’re in their 20’s and are still friends to this day.”
Phyllis continues to volunteer at Camp Goodtimes and the Family Camp, where parents can join their children for a weekend of adventure and fun. Her legacy with the camp continues to grow – her son started coming to the camp as a counsellor and is now a volunteer nurse as well.
Coping with a cancer diagnosis can make children grow up too quickly. But, we can still help create communities that offer unforgettable experiences so children can create lasting memories and friendships.