Camp Qual­ity turns James’ life around

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

The first time James Sly­field went to Camp Qual­ity he’d just fin­ished his fi­nal leukaemia treat­ment.

When he left for camp the 6-yearold would not eat meat.

Three years of chemo­ther­apy had af­fected his sense of taste and it just wasn’t pleas­ant for him to eat.

But when he came home from camp a ‘‘steak and pep­per man’’ it was a sure sign that things were on the up, his mother Ali­son says.

James was di­ag­nosed just be­fore he turned three.

‘‘He missed out on so much of his child­hood. He didn’t play with other kids un­til he was al­most five. It’s so much of grow­ing up.

‘‘I can’t even de­scribe how much James gets out of that camp.’’

James says his favourite part is the ac­tiv­i­ties.

‘‘I like the games we play – I got to jump in the pool. We also went to Rain­bow’s End last time,’’ he says. This Fri­day is Odd Shoe Day. It is Camp Qual­ity’s national aware­ness and fundrais­ing day and the Sly­field fam­ily want to sup­port the or­gan­i­sa­tion that gave James his child­hood back.

James, now seven, was di­ag­nosed with acute lym­phoblas­tic leukaemia af­ter a rough win­ter, Mrs Sly­field says.

‘‘It was so life-chang­ing. He had no im­mu­nity so he was put in iso­la­tion straight away. He couldn’t see any­one. For our fam­ily ev­ery­thing changed overnight.’’

The Sly­fields were also car­ing for their baby girl Kate, who was only five months old when James be­gan 18 months of in­tense chemo­ther­apy.

An­other two years of main­te­nance chemo­ther­apy meant James fi­nally fin­ished treat­ment on De­cem­ber 18, 2011.

He went to his first camp on Jan­uary 5, 2012.

Camp Qual­ity gave her son the chance to run around, be a boy and not be treated dif­fer­ently to other chil­dren, Mrs Sly­field says.

‘‘To go through all of his treat­ment and the many pe­ri­ods of iso­la­tion and then go some­where like Camp Qual­ity – it was just a dream come true. ’’

Camp Qual­ity is a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion which hosts an­nual camps for 5 to 16-year-olds with can­cer. It in­cludes ac­tiv­i­ties and games, day-trips, themed din­ners and so­cials.

Each of the campers is as­signed a full­time com­pan­ion to look af­ter them while they are away from home.

James’ buddy Matt Hol­ster, 28, has been vol­un­teer­ing at Camp Qual­ity for eight years.

The in­ner-city res­i­dent says the com­pan­ions and campers form a strong bond even though they might only see each other once a year.

‘‘You let go of any sense of reser­va­tion on camp. It’s quite lib­er­at­ing. If you hold back then your campers are go­ing to hold back as well. It’s all about mak­ing them the pri­or­ity.’’

Camp Qual­ity trustee John Green has been in­volved with the or­gan­i­sa­tion for 14 years and says it is a lot of fun for the vol­un­teers and the chil­dren.

‘‘We push the bound­aries pretty far. It gives the chil­dren a break from home, their treat­ment and worries.

‘‘We’re able to do things that a lot of fam­i­lies aren’t, sim­ply be­cause of the cost.’’

Wear a pair of odd shoes on Fri­day to show your sup­port.

Photo: LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

In pairs: James Sly­field and camp buddy Matt Hol­ster are sup­port­ing Odd Shoe Day for Camp Qual­ity.

Good times: Camp Qual­ity gave James Sly­field his child­hood back.

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