Sunday, 19 June 2011

Over The Wall' charity provides exciting challenges via holiday camps for seriously ill children

Over The Wall (OTW) was founded in 1999 as part of Paul Newman's international Association of Hole in the Wall Camps to provide free, life-changing, therapeutic holiday camps for children affected by serious, life-limiting illnesses.

The camps take place around the UK during school holidays, and help children try new challenges, build confidence, and interact with others like themselves. Often staying at camps is the only time they spend with their peers away from home, aside from hospital stays.

Richard Mott, who is the CEO of OTW tells us something about the charity and what it does: “These children can spend months or years in and out of hospital undergoing frightening and painful treatments. Many experience isolation, or even peer rejection. OTW camps enable children to gain independence, form friendship groups, and enjoy a range of adventurous and creative activities together.”

Jennifer and Jacqueline are thirteen year old identical twins who both suffer from sickle cell anaemia. As a result of this condition they require frequent hospitalisation, plus constant care and medical treatment.

They have been participating in OTW camps every summer for several years, now. In Jacqueline’s words, “The best thing about the camp is you get to do things you wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before. And you get to meet other people with the same condition. Every camp I’ve been on, I’ve made new friends. You forget about everything at home.”

Jennifer is equally enthusiastic: “The carers were really nice, very generous. They gave me their makeup and painted my nails! The activities I did were zipwire, swimming, music, horse riding and craft. We also did kayaking outdoors on big lakes, and I could see all the trees above which I kept looking at! I didn’t think about home when I was there. When they asked if I wanted to call home, I just said, No! I’ve kept in touch with about half of the friends I made. We use Facebook to stay in touch.”

OTW camps are not just for the children. It also provides their parents with a well-earned break from their often-exhausting care role. What does the mother of Jennifer and Jacqueline think of it? “The Over The Wall camp is fantastic because it gives me a real break so I can just rest and catch up on a few things. I even get to go for a drink with friends, which is something I never get to do. The camp also boosts my confidence that I’ll be able to ‘let go’ of the girls when they’re older.”

The camps are also open to siblings of sick children, whose lives are often substantially impacted upon by the poor health of their brother or sister.

Amelia O’Connell, 13, from Liverpool
Amelia recently represented the UK at the international Association of Hole in the Wall Camps gala in New York. Amelia stunned the audience, which included superstar Stevie Wonder, with her rendition of Over the Rainbow. According to Amelia, “It was an amazing opportunity to sing for such a huge audience, and it just shows that dreams really can come true.” Amelia was six when she underwent a life-saving operation for a serious heart condition.

Vicky Steventon, 18, from Basingstoke, Hampshire
Vicki is studying for four A-levels in the hope of gaining a place to study genetics at university. She is keen to ‘give something’ back through science, having suffered from kidney disease since she was just two years old.
Vicky, who underwent a kidney transplant at age 13, describes how, each year, the OTW Camp played a big and important part in her life. After her exams, Vicky is keen to be a Volunteer at one of OTW’s camps.

Alex Warne, 13, from Worthing, West Sussex
At six, Alex was diagnosed with an acute form of Leukaemia. During that year, his grandfather was also diagnosed with cancer. One year later, the day after his seventh birthday, his grandfather died.

Soon after the funeral, Alex wrote a book in his memory, The Heaven Flower, which tells the story of how a few days after his death, Alex was given a sign that his granddad would visit him one last time. Alex’s book was published by Canaan Press earlier this year.

Famous plaster brand, Elastoplast, sponsors the OTW camps. A spokesman said: “Elastoplast is proud to announce our collaboration with this inspirational children’s charity Over The Wall.”

Simon Edwards, brand manager for Elastoplast adds: “We believe that wherever they are, and whatever their circumstances, children need mental, physical and emotional stimulation that extraordinary experiences provide. Over The Wall has made this opportunity a reality for hundreds of seriously ill children, and Elastoplast is pleased to support this important and inspirational cause.”

Parents, children, relations and carers who want to find out more can visit

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