Camp Oochigeas

Camp Oochigeas is a privately funded, volunteer based organization that provides kids with cancer and kids affected by childhood cancer with a unique opportunity for growth through challenging, fun, enriching and magical experiences.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Camp Oochigeas, or “Ooch”, has been operating since 1984. Ooch offers year-round programming for children affected by childhood cancer at its residential camp site in Muskoka, at The Hospital for Sick Children and at Ooch Downtown, the first ever in-city recreation centre for kids with cancer in North America.As a registered charity that does not receive government funding, Ooch relies on the generosity of its donor and volunteer community to ensure that over 800 children are able to take part in the Camp Oochigeas experience every year at no cost to their families. Ooch remains the only residential camp in Ontario to offer IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions on site so even children in the intense phase of their cancer treatment can still experience camp.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Every year over 800 children affected by childhood cancer have the opportunity to experience Camp Ooch programming. 450  campers attended residential camp in Muskoka in the summer of 2014, and 10 Weekends at Camp were offered throughout the year. Ooch Downtown also offered 70 days of family programming. At The Hospital for Sick Children, Camp Ooch provides camp programs on the oncology unit seven days a week and four evenings per week.  In addition, Camp Oochigeas is a member of Imagine Canada, the Children’s Oncology Camping Association (COCA), the Ontario Camp Association (OCA) and the Canadian Association of Paediatric Oncology Camps (CAPOC).

Our Programs How We Do It

Residential Camp in Rosseau;Muskoka Residential summer camp (8 weeks) for children with cancer and children who have lost a sibling to cancer ages 6-19, as well as  10 Weekends at Camp throughout the fall and winter. In-Hospital Program;The Hospital for Sick ChildrenProgramming occurs seven days a week on the oncology floor at SickKids for in- and out-patients, age 0-18, led by seven full time Ooch In-Hospital Program Specialists.Ooch Downtown and In-City Programs;Programming for children with cancer, siblings and their families at Ooch Downtown and throughout the community. Leadership Program Year-round programming, including wilderness expeditions, for young camp leaders affected by cancer, age 16-19, that focuses on leadership skills and team building. 

 

Residential Camp in Rosseau, Muskoka

The goal of the residential program is to ensure high quality programming that provides unique opportunities for growth through challenging, fun, enriching and magical camp experiences for children affected by childhood cancer.Various programs include:Summer Camp: Three two-week summer camp sessions for children with cancer, age 6-19.

Teomul: A one-week session in the summer for bereaved siblings, age 6-19.

7Scape: A one-week session in the summer for recently diagnosed teens, age 16-19.

Weekends at Camp: Weekends (10) during the fall and winter for children with cancer, age 6-19.

Young Adult Retreats: Weekends for young adult survivors of childhood cancer, age 19-15.During summer residential camp, children challenge themselves through a diverse array of activities and programs including: archery, water sports, fishing, arts and crafts and a ropes course. During their time at camp, our campers explore their potential by setting goals and learning new skills. By participating in challenging and active outdoor experiences, campers expand their self-esteem, build their confidence and gain new-found independence.Up at camp, a paediatric oncologist and three nurses from The Hospital for Sick Children are on-site at all times, available 24 hours a day, which guarantees a smooth transition to camp life without sacrificing ongoing treatment. Camp Oochigeas remains the only residential camp in Ontario to offer IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions on-site, meaning that even those children in the most intense phase of their cancer treatment can experience the wonder of camp. Each year, more than 400 volunteers are responsible for the facilitation of Camp Ooch’s residential camp programs.

Funding and Program Partners

Funding is provided by Sporting Life Inc. through the Sporting Life 10K.

Program Impact

In summer 2014, 457 children attended residential camp in Muskoka, for a one or two-week session. During this time they discovered new friendships, new skills and a new courage within themselves.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

According to Toronto's Vital Signs, 2012, "only about 1 in 14 children and youth meet Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of an hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical exercise each day[.]"

"Active play, which for children should be spontaneous, vigorous and fun, has been steadily decreasing in each generation in Canada over the last 50 - 60 years. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of Canadian children who play outside dropped 14%."

At Camp Oochigeas' residential camp in Muskoka, we provide children who are living with cancer with the opportunity to be physically active by providing them with camp activities, such as canoeing, kayaking or swimming, in a safe and encouraging environment.

(Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2012)

Participant Vignette

This is a letter from a girl who participated in Camp Ooch from 2004 to 2011. It was sent to Camp Ooch, unsolicited, December 3, 2011.Dear Ooch,I just wanted to take the time to express my gratitude for all you have given me as a camper over the past 8 years. Ooch is truly the silver lining of having cancer.When I started camp in 2004 as a nervous 11-year-old I never could have imagined what I would get to experience and accomplish, and all the friends I would make. Ooch has grown so much in the last few years and I’m so happy I was able to see all these changes. With Ooch I got to complete my dream of going dogsledding. I got to travel to British Columbia. I got to experience canoe trips in the summer and fall. I got to celebrate my 12th – 18th birthdays at camp with wet hugs and skipping around the Dining Hall. Ooch inspired me to get all my swimming qualifications. I’ve also had many special moments at camp that I am unable to share with friends and family back home. I try, but I also realize that so many things about camp can only be described as, “you had to be there.” In graduation I also feel sad because I have some friends that should be doing it with me. It isn’t fair that [some of] my friends lost their battles with cancer and I often think about how things would be different if they were still here. I am glad that their siblings are able to experience camp in their stead with Teomul.I still don’t really feel that I can express in words what I feel for Camp Ooch. There is nowhere else that I feel as comfortable and happy. When I am at camp I am filled with a complete joy that I could not experience anywhere else. Ooch has truly changed my life, shaped who I am and I don’t know where I would be today without it. I hope you understand what an incredible impact Camp Ooch has made on my life. It is such a powerful place. Thank you for an amazing 8 years and I look forward to many more!- Ooch Camper

 

Ooch Downtown and In-City Programs

Currently, only 20% of the children Camp Ooch is able to interact with at SickKids attend Ooch programs outside of the hospital. Whether a result of cultural unfamiliarity, a fear of being away from home, or simply because some children are too young or too ill, there is more we can do to ensure that every child shares in an Ooch experience.As a result, in the spring of 2011 we opened the doors to Ooch Downtown, the first ever recreational centre for kids affected by childhood cancer in North America. This 18,000 square foot facility located at 464 Bathurst Street in Toronto, has been renovated to include a two story climbing tower, locker room, sports court, teen and parent lounge, media room and transformable play space to help ensure that every single child diagnosed with cancer at SickKids Hospital in Toronto has the opportunity to experience the magic of Ooch outside of the hospital walls. Ooch Downtown will also act as a stepping stone by building relationships with families and increasing their comfort and familiarity with camp, so that every child diagnosed with cancer at SickKids can experience Ooch in Muskoka.

Funding and Program Partners

Toronto Blue Jays – Jays Care Foundation, PlayStation Canada, BMO Financial Group, Rexall 

Program Impact

In 2013, Ooch Downtown and In-City Programs were host to over 70 days of programming and total program attendance was 1,030. This includes children on active cancer treatment, children in remission, siblings of children with cancer, children who have lost a sibling to cancer and parents/guardians.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"On average, kids spend almost two-thirds (63%) of their free time after school and on weekends sedentary, much of it watching various screens (television, computers and video games)."

Ooch Downtown is the first ever recreational centre in North America that provides programming for kids affected with childhood cancer and their families. This fully accessible space provides after-school and weekend programs that focus on being both physically and mentally active, programs that build both hard and soft skills, and a range of programs that appeal to the entire camper family.

(Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2012)

Participant Vignette

The following is a quote from a parent of a child with cancer on the impact of Ooch Downtown:Dear Camp Ooch, Thank you so much for an amazing event [a sleepover for 4-7 year olds at Ooch Downtown, including ball hockey, climbing on the indoor rockwall, a movie, sleeping indoors in tents, and a pancake breakfast for families the next morning]. My son absolutely loved his first Camp experience and is talking about more! I think he got a little lonesome last night, but he told me he "got brave" after talking to Ken [Ooch In-Hospital Program Specialist and Ooch Downtown volunteer] and he was OK. I wanted to let you and your team know what a pleasure you gave me and our family to see [our son] so happy and engaged and to include [our daughter] and me in your celebration.  Please feel proud of the work you do - it is a very special gift.- Camper Parent

 

What You Can Do

 

Residential Camp in Rosseau, Muskoka

Activities a donation will support

The cost to fund a two week session at camp for one camper is $3,500 or $250 a day. As a registered charity that receives no government funding, Camp Ooch relies on the generosity of volunteers and donors to ensure that children affected by childhood cancer can experience Ooch at no cost to their families. Camp Ooch has never rejected a child’s application for summer residential camp, and with additional funding, will be able to further expand program availability to centers other than The Hospital for Sick Children.

Donation impact

With financial support, Camp Oochigeas will be able to ensure that every child diagnosed with cancer at SickKids Hospital has the opportunity to participate in Ooch programs at absolutely no cost to their families.

Ooch Downtown and In-City Programs

Activities a donation will support

After the physical completion of the Ooch Downtown facility in the spring of 2011, our focus has been to use financial assistance to increase the frequency and breadth of programming available to children with cancer and their families. The following are a few examples of the programs that are currently offered:Closed Programs: Themed programs that take place over four weeks at Ooch Downtown, where children work on developing a specific skill (i.e. woodworking or baking).Family Programs: Themed programs for the whole family; a chance for families to connect and meet Ooch Volunteers.Summer Specialties Week:  A week of activities at Ooch Downtown during the summer for kids, age 8-12.Day Camp: One to two week sessions in the Toronto Area, serving kids age 4-7, as well as a March Break Day Camp at Ooch DowntownUrban Ooch: One-day camp-style programs at Ooch Downtown or in the Toronto Area. Examples include an excursion to the Toronto Harbour to spend the day with the Toronto Police Marine Unit, an outing to a Blue Jays game, and a wilderness skills workshop at the Toronto Brickworks. 

Donation impact

A grant of $3,050 will allow for 30 children with cancer to attend a single program at Ooch Downtown.

Contact

Judy Tripp
Major Gifts Officer
416.961.6624 x276
Charitable Number: 131160220RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 5,000,000

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