By AAAF President, Chel Campbell
The AAAdventure Camp held during Alopecia Awareness Week was our first attempt at hosting an event for kids from across the nation. It was designed to bring children together from all around Australia to have fun, build friendships and to remove the question on being the only person with Alopecia Areata. Many of the children had never met another person with Alopecia and the camp a great way in a non-confronting environment to remove this barrier.
The weekend was a very busy one, both for the kids and families attending, and for our team at AAAF. As so many of the children travelled from interstate, and myself with them, we spent several hours flying in to Sydney and then to Dubbo itself. For those children coming from NSW or the ACT, they drove to the camp in a AAAF minibus.
Once at the camp, everyone was buddied up with a sleeping companion and shown to their tents to unpack and settle into their accommodation. After unpacking, the group was split into two smaller teams to go on an exclusive, after-hours encounter with some of the zoo residents.
Each group got to get up close and personal with the wildlife and learn some interesting facts about the Australian natives. On completion of the walks, dinner was served – a tasty BBQ next to the lake after a fantastic afternoon. Having an open plan eating environment enabled the children to interact with each other and the chance to get to know their new friends. After a few formalities, our sleepy crew were ready for bed.
Sunday started at 6:00am sharp. After an early breakfast, the two groups headed off for another round of behind the scene encounters to see the otters, tigers and gibbons all doing their earlier morning routines. The speciality was seeing the tiger launching on his hind legs to eat his breakfast of chicken necks.
After packing up our tents we headed out to explore the zoo. Each group was given 8 animals to photograph and find interesting facts about. A mystery animal had the groups scouting around the zoo ground deciphering the clues. Then we had a quick stop at the gift shop before heading off to lunch and the interactive workshops.
The workshops gave the children time to ask any questions that were troubling them, play games, introduce themselves. We were lucky to have a fantastic team of AAAF volunteers, both women and men, who had been living with alopecia for many years. They were able to run a fantastic session with the kids. While they held their workshop, I gathered the parents in the shade of some jacaranda trees and we discussed the experiences and concerns we have as parents of kids with alopecia.
It was then time to hit the road for our journey home.
I can’t pinpoint one individual highlight of the camp. For me this was a very personal journey of many achievements. From an organisational point of view, the fact that everyone arrived was a huge relieve. Personally, it was so enjoyable to just see the children being children, interacting, running, laughing, telling jokes and being happy. As the president I reflected on the wonderful individuals that had given up so much of their personal time to bring about this opportunity and I am so grateful for their support.
Camp 2018 promises to be bigger and better. We have secured funding to double the attendance of children at the camp. We can now announce that we will be hosting the camp at The Summit in Victoria, not far from Melbourne. Having direct flights into Victoria will limit the time spent in flight, but our bus journey from the airport will have everyone well acquainted by the time we arrive. With the extra free time from this travel arrangement, we will be able to engage in more outdoor activities and targeted workshops. The children will have a unique experience found nowhere else. We have a huge range of fun and exciting activities lined up like the giant swing, snake encounters, army tank experience (yep, a ride in a tank!), a board break challenge, and ropes courses, just to mention a few!
We are very excited about the 2018 AAAdventure Camp, and cannot wait to see you there!