Christmas will come early this year for 25 Queensland kids with disabilities who are attending a free, four-day holiday camp run by student volunteers at Bond University (December 20-23).
Now in its eighth year, the Bond Sony Foundation Children's Holiday Camp provides a valuable holiday experience for the children, aged between six and 13 years, and some much-needed respite for their parents and carers.
The camp provides its young charges with a jam-packed program of non-stop fun including a trip to Sea World, a voyage on the Aquaduck, sailing, swimming, a movie night, Christmas carols, a talent show and carnival.
Even a visit from the local firefighters with their high-pressure fire hoses on Tuesday afternoon will do little to dampen the festive spirit of the camp, ahead of a visit from the big man himself, Santa, who will arrive aloft the Westpac Lifesaver helicopter on Wednesday morning.
The support team consists of 44 student volunteers from Bond, a doctor who is on call around the clock and six nurses who have travelled from across Queensland and as far South Australia to give their time to the cause.
The student volunteers devote themselves to looking after the children and ensuring they have a good time, with every special-needs child supported by a full-time carer and 24-hour supervision for the four days and three nights of the camp.
The children stay in the two-bed share accommodation on the Bond University campus throughout the camp with their carers, which sees great bonds and friendships made.
Bond student Ben Hartsuyker said he had such a great time on last year’s camp as a buddy, he volunteered to be one of the camp’s convenors this year.
“I love being involved with an incredible initiative that’s committed to putting smiles on the faces of kids and parents in our local area,” he said.
“The main thing we as students gain from the camp experience is a pretty healthy change of perspective.
“From time-to-time we can get stressed about things like exams and assignments, but to see the reality of the difficulties facing children with disabilities and their families can really allow us to be grateful for what we have.
“During last year's camp, there were times when I felt pretty exhausted, but when I thought about the families of these kids who wake up and provide what is often full-time care around the clock, day in day out, it really put into perspective just how much of a sacrifice they make with no expectation of reward, or even respite.”
Ben anticipates that this year the Christmas Carols on Monday evening will be a definite highlight.
“We have a great men’s acapella choir who will be on campus to give all of us a healthy dose of Christmas cheer. They've told us that the camp is their favourite gig of the year, so I'm sure they’ll put on quite a show.
“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed in one way or another to make this experience possible, and on behalf of the convening team - we cannot wait for this year's camp!”
The camp is completely cost-free for both the children and student companions so relies heavily on the generosity of the local community.