Jul 21, 2015 - 8:55 PM EDT
Last Updated: Jul 21, 2015 - 8:57 PM EDT
As the line of kids walked off the yellow school bus, six-year-old Rhianna Mason darted towards her mom, Roxanne, and her little sister, Eloise, who were waiting for her.
“Mommy, mommy, look at my crafts,” she said, proudly showing off her purple bag and the treasures inside.
Her brother, nine-year-old Owen, came up behind her, taking off his ball cap, his hair still wet from Adventure Bay Water Park.
They had just come back from a day at the Scouting for Hospice camp. It’s for children with family members who have received a life-altering diagnosis, and gives them a chance to leave their stresses at home and simply be on summer vacation.
First, the kids went to Camp Cedarwin in Harrow, where they canoed, made crafts and learned how to shoot a bow and arrow. After that, they went to Adventure Bay for the afternoon.
“This kind of thing is nice, they’ve been stuck with me all summer. They needed a break from me. They needed to get away from Mom,” Roxanne said. “Owen couldn’t wait. Rhianna was nervous, but I kind of pushed her into it. I knew she’d have fun.”
Owen went to the camp last year while his dad, Dan, battled cancer. This was Rhianna’s first year.
“Owen’s super shy. When he got back (last year) they did a big reception and he got an award for being the most outgoing — which is totally opposite to his personality,” Roxanne said. “It was all he could talk about for two weeks — the canoeing, the horses and everything.”
After Dan died last October, Owen and Rhianna continued using Hospice’s services with Lego Club being their favourite activity.
While the scouting camp was a day off, all of the 21 kids who participated access some form of therapy at Hospice. One of the most important is play therapy.
“The universal language for children is play,” said Brianne Thompson, a Hospice social worker who runs its children’s programming. “I meet them where they’re at.”
A life-altering diagnosis is never easy, especially for a child. Family trips to the park can be replaced with trips to the hospital. When they come to talk about what’s going on in their lives, it’s important to remember they’re not adults yet, Thompson said.
“With an adult, it’s perfectly normal and comfortable to sit and talk about their journey. For a child, that’s very intimidating,” she said. “For kids, it’s important to have that kid-like atmosphere. They’re going through a lot that makes them adults, but they still need to be kids.
“They’re very smart kids, very mature. But at the same time, they still want to have fun, they still want to play and we try our best to be able to give them that,” Thompson said
For 11-year-old Elijah and eight-year-old Noah Bradatanu, the camp was one of their first activities with Windsor Hospice. Their mom Mary has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is getting ready for her first round of chemotherapy on Friday.
Wearing a yellow Scouting with Hospice hat and T-shirt that looked about two sizes too big for him, Noah said he’d had a great time.
“My favourite part was archery, excluding Adventure Bay,” Noah said. “I met a friend, Owen. He wasn’t in my group, but we had a lot of the same interests. Since it was my first time, and he’d been there before, I was with him the whole time when we went to Adventure Bay.”
“It was awesome,” Elijah said. “I made a friend, Dylan. He was really nice. This was his first time coming here, like me. We went together in a lot of things, like canoeing.”
While he was enthusiastic when talking about his activities, when the discussion turned to his mom, Elijah’s voice dropped and he became serious.
“I’m not worried. I think it’ll be successful,” he said. When asked if he’d opened up to anyone else at the camp, he said, “No. I don’t really talk about that stuff with other kids.”
Mary said she’s taken a positive approach with her illness. She said she’s talked to her kids about it and hopes Hospice will help her kids cope. She said the camp was wonderful.
“It was nice to know they were well taken care of and having fun, while I did the things I needed to do,” she said. “It was nice not having the stress of keeping an eye on them, while knowing they were having a good time.”