Camp gives special kids and average great time
Tara Evoy loved her time at Camp Trailblazers, the activities and the people she met there. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram
"They got a lot of nice doctors at the Janeway," says 10-year-old Tara Evoy.
She should know.
A Grade 5 student at Virginia Park Elementary, Tara has made many trips to the Janeway since she was born with a cleft palate.
"Dr. (Geoff) Smith and Dr. (David) Jewer have been my doctors for a long time," Tara says.
Her mother, Renee, says it was Jewer who told the family about a special camp for children with facial differences.
Renee says while Tara was enthusiastic, she and her husband, Gerry, weren't sure if their daughter was ready to take the big step of being away from them and her six-year-old sister, Cassie.
"I was iffy on whether or not she'd go, because she's so quiet and shy, but she was all go for it," Renee said.
Janine Hubbard, a psychologist and member of the Janeway's cleft lip and palate/craniofacial team, attended Camp Trailblazers with Tara and 11 other children ages 10 to 15, Oct. 2-5 at Circle Square Ranch in C.B.S.
The young campers were from all across the province, and most have cleft lips and/or palates.
Camp Trailblazers is an initiative of AboutFace, a Toronto-based organization that supports, encourages and empowers children with facial differences.
"The camp is an opportunity for these kids to meet other kids who look a little bit more like them and who know what it's like to look different than anybody else around you," Hubbard explained, adding that many of those children lack self-confidence, self-esteem and social skills.
"Some struggle when it comes to taking on leadership skills, so to be in a place where they are encouraged to do that - in a really safe and positive environment - it was fabulous for them."
Tara has had five surgeries to repair her cleft palate.
"She had her first one at three months, the next one at a year," her mother said. "Then she had one when she was in Grade 2 and she had two more within the last year."
Two of the operations involved taking bone from Tara's hip and grafting it to her face.
Renee said Tara bounces back pretty quickly and is proud of her speedy recoveries.
"There was me and another little girl in the room and she had a bone graft done, too," Tara said.
"The first day I was sleeping through most of it, the second day I got up and the third day I walked around a little bit."
Her face brightens when she's asked about Camp Trailblazers.
"We took horse lessons and we went horseback riding and we learned all the tricks to do with the horse, and we also went rock climbing and we went for a hike," Tara said.
"In the nighttime we had our snack and we played some games to get to know each other. And then we'd go back to our cabins and we'd stay up for awhile. And then we went to sleep."
Tara's favourite activities were the group bonfire, a scavenger hunt and the horseback riding.
"And one night we stayed up till one o'clock playing truth or dare," she confides, almost in a whisper.
This was the first year Camp Trailblazers was offered in this province, and Tara hopes it won't be the last.
"Children who get to go to this camp get to express their feelings about their face and then they'll know they're not the only ones different and that they're just like everyone else," she explained.
For more information on Camp Trailblazers, visit www.aboutface.ca or call 1-800-665-3223. Janine Hubbard can be reached at 777-4814.