Camp Quality turns James’ life around
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.
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.