Eagle Bay Boys Weekend 16-18 March
In March 2018, AAAF ran our first event just for boys with Alopecia Areata – a weekend camp in WA. Hosted by Greg O’Rourke, the WA AAAF Branch Manager, at his holiday home in Eagle Bay, three hours south of Perth, the camp was attended by six boys aged nine to fourteen.
Some of their parents also attended, along with other members of the AAAF team – Support Ambassadors James Miller and Cam O’Rourke and Carlo Napolitano. Carlo and James flew in from Sydney on the Friday evening especially for this camp.
The emphasis was on having fun – be it at the high rope course, playing touch rugby and swimming at the beach, making pizza or playing pool or board games, and just hanging with other boys who were going through the same thing.
Having arrived and settled into the holiday home on the Friday night, Saturday began with a cooked breakfast before everyone headed off to Forest Adventures high rope park. After being clipped into safety harnesses and helmets the group set off to conquer the six stages of increasing difficulty, some courses suspended over 30 metres above ground. The boys were fearless, tackling zip lines, unicycles, climbing frames and sheer drops – some of the parents were not so brave!
After a quick lunch and a break at the holiday house, it was time to walk to the beach to swim and attempt a game of touch rugby, coached by Carlo – the former coach of the Italian Rugby League. Anyone strolling down Eagle Bay beach that afternoon would have come across a small tribe of male alopecians passing a rugby ball around: some bald and some with patchy hair; some tall and some small but very fierce.
It was not members of the opposing team that Carlo taught the boys to tackle, but life with alopecia.
Regarding the reasoning behind the camp, Greg said “I was keen for AAAF to do this was because we have quite a few boys in WA. It is important that they know they aren’t alone with their alopecia and that help and support is at hand. While girls with alopecia are more likely to use these sorts of networks for support, boys are often cut from a different cloth and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. So far as I am aware this is the first time anyone has tried a camp just for boys with alopecia and I’m really hoping we can start to change people’s lives for the better.
“At the camp there will be other boys with alopecia, young adults with alopecia (Cam and James), Carlo and of course other parents of boys with alopecia. While we will have fun on this camp, I am really hoping we get a lot from the networking, conversations and activities in the form of new friendships, understanding the support available and even leading to more participation in the AAAF in the future. Remember, the whole reason we have the foundation is to help make lives better for people with alopecia.”
Charlie G (aged 9): ‘The best part of the weekend was climbing at Forest Adventures and playing pool’.
Formal sessions were kept to a minimum, but on the Saturday night, after the homemade pizza and a few glasses of wine were consumed, parents had a heart-to-heart about their concerns for their boys, including how to tackle bullying and encourage positive relationships with peers. Greg, James and Cams’ perspectives were invaluable; Greg as a parent of two children with alopecia and James and Cam having grown up with the condition. Greg talked about the importance as a parent of believing and reinforcing that alopecia itself will not stop you achieving anything. Cam and James talked about things that worked for them as they grew up. While the grown-ups were talking in the kitchen, Carlo was downstairs having a chat about resilience with the boys over “the longest game of pool ever”.
Jimmy D (aged 14): ‘What I have learned this weekend is that there are people out there who are far worse off than me. Even though I have alopecia, I am still healthy and I feel grateful for what life has given me’.
As everyone was packing up on the last day Carlo said ‘It’s been a really successful weekend. With boys you can’t be formal – boys need an informal environment and a relaxed attitude. I’ll definitely be taking something back to NSW. It has been informative for parents as well as the kids.
My hope is that boys take away from this weekend acceptance of their current situation, at whatever stage they are at. Looking back and saying “I wish I didn’t have alopecia” won’t change anything at all. It’s about resilience.’
Thanks to Belinda for this write up of the WA Boys Weekend. If you’d like to make sure you stay up to date with events like these, be sure to pop over to the AAAF website and register with us today.