I am inspired daily by the sounds of joy, laughter, friendship and fun that resonate from the many programs provided by Camp Oochigeas. Much more than a summer camp, Ooch exists to give kids with and affected by childhood cancer what they need most– the chance to be a kid. Often referred to as the social cure for cancer, oncologists actually prescribe Ooch for their patients. Oncologists like Dr. David Malkin who say, “Camp opens up protective barriers so that kids with cancer have opportunities to really explore their capabilities. I have learned and firmly believe a hospital is only part of what it takes to cure a child with cancer.”
Established in 1983, Ooch has grown from a one week residential camp up north to a diverse network of camp-style programs at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Ooch Downtown in the heart of Toronto, Ooch Muskoka and additional satellite centres across southern Ontario. We serve over 1000 kids and their families annually.
Currently serving 33 per cent of children diagnosed with childhood cancer we are privileged to meet almost every patient at SickKids on the day they are diagnosed. While families are hearing about treatment protocols, kids are engaged in activities with our very talented (fun) In-Hospital Program Specialists. It is here that the journey of cancer and Camp begins. It is a transformational journey and it is one that the board, staff, volunteers, campers and families travel together.
Once a child and family meet with Ooch staff during a hospital stay or an out-patient visit to the clinic, they are invited to attend programs at Ooch Downtown (our one-of-a-kind recreational facility for kids with cancer in the heart of Toronto) It is here that families connect with other families who share a similar journey. There is an instant connection that draws them together in a support network unlike anything I have ever seen. They understand what the other family is going through at a time when no one else seems to understand. Many of these introductions are the foundation of life-long friendships.
Experiencing what we refer to as the Magic of Ooch, kids and families look to us for more opportunities to engage their kids and family in more experiences, more often. This year alone we provided over 709 days of programming and there are only 365 days in a year. Programs for kids like Maggie whose story of cancer and Camp are summarized with these words,
“My cancer story is one that will be with me for the rest of my life, but thanks to Ooch; it’s not a sad one. The memories and relationships I have made at Ooch are ones that I will carry with me forever and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn and grow in such an incredible environment, surrounded by the most amazing people you will ever meet.”
Friendship and fun is what Camp is all about. At Ooch kids are defined by who they are, not what they have. The expectation is that campers will have fun and challenge themselves to fulfill their personal best and they do!
Building programs to meet the ever-changing landscape of paediatric healthcare and childhood cancer, the journey of kids, cancer and Camp evolves in response to an increased demand for the specialized programs we provide. As the only oncology camp in Canada to provide onsite IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions we strive to offer a unique range of recreational and social programs in a variety of locations to meet the needs of our campers, so that even the most medically fragile child can participate.
Success for Ooch is that every child with cancer has the opportunity to gain this community of support, love, joy and growth for as long as they need it.
To learn more about the work of Camp Oochigeas visit OOCH.ORG
Cancer changes a child’s life. So does Camp.
Meet our 2014 Graduating Campers (Video)
Camp Oochigeas is a privately funded, volunteer-based organization that provides kids with and affected by childhood cancer with unique opportunities for growth through challenging, fun, enriching and magical experiences. Receiving no government or hospital funding, Ooch relies exclusively on funds donated by individuals, foundations and corporations.
Alex Robertson is the Chief Executive Officer at Camp Oochigeas, a year-round not-for-profit that provides recreational programs for kids living with and affected by childhood cancer. He joined Ooch in 2005 as the Director of Programs and helped to grow the specialized summer camp into what is now a year-round operation running out of 5 centres in Ontario and serving over 1000 families every year. Past Chair (and active Board member) of the Canadian Association of Paediatric Oncology Camps, and he is a past Board member of the Ontario Camps Association. Alex cut his teeth running programs at Paul Newman’s charity camps in the United States and abroad including piloting camp programs for kids living with HIV in Africa and Asia. He’s a runner, a piano guy, and an avid apple eater.