Camp in the Cloud 2021 - Scottish Families
A story by Over The Wall
We delivered 9, day-long, online Camp in the Cloud family camp sessions throughout 2022 which served 31 children living with serious illness, and 34 of their family members from Scotland. We brought fun, respite and connection to families at a time of crisis.
What Camp in the Cloud 2021 - Scottish Families did
Over The Wall ran 9 one-day online Camp in the Cloud session for families across the UK which included one or more child with a serious illness. Camps took place on 9 weekends between March and November 2021 and were s a Covid-safe alternative to the residential camp we had planned to run, delivered in the safety and comfort of the family home.
We had planned that the places for Scottish attendees funded by Better Breaks would be filled in our family camps which took part in Spring and Autumn, however only 27 of these spaces were filled with Scottish campers where Better Breaks funded 60 spaces overall. This means we have allocated the remaining funding to the Scottish attendees of our other family Camp in the Cloud session, many of which were condition specific and run in partnership with another charity.
These camps were: Allergy UK Family Camp, Spring Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation Family Camp, Autumn DRWF Family Camp, Children’s Heart Surgery Fund Family Camp, Sibs Family Camp, Sickle Cell & Thalassemia Family Camp, and Transplant Sport Family Camp. In total we had 27 Scottish Families made up of 65 individuals attending Camp in the Cloud Family Camp sessions across the year.
When recruiting for the camps families in greatest need were prioritised, including those who had a high MDI score, those who had not attended an OTW camp before, and those who would be unable to secure a break from home or hospital in any other setting.
Prior to Camp each family was sent a resource box containing all the resources and instructions they would need for the day’s activities. During Camp in the Cloud we ran a full structured day of activities hosted on our bespoke built virtual platform starting with a welcome and the opportunity to vote for your favourite dance for the dance party later in the day. Activities included kite making, canvas art activity, bingo, magic card tricks, drama activity and an adult activity for parents. Everyone came together at the end of the day to take part in a live zoom quiz night.
This project addressed the following Better Breaks priority areas: Complex Needs, Independence, transition to adulthood, Diversity and Under 5’s.
What Over The Wall has learned
We have confidence in our original evaluation process. Delivering this project has enabled us to trial a different form of evaluation that was in-house as opposed to outsourcing. Whilst there were financial benefits, the lower numbers of respondents means that we now feel confident that it is better to outsource our evaluation to a third party to improve the quality of the data that we receive.
Targeting families most in need of support. Through the development of Camp in the Cloud in its second year in 2021 we have realised that there is an appetite for a service for families affected by serious illnesses who would not be able to attend a residential camp due to their child's condition. As a result we have specifically run a camp in 2022 for families including a child living with Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia or Cystic Fibrosis, conditions which mean they are unable to physically spend time with others with the same illnesses. This camp took place in late March and has proved to be one of our most popular sessions so far this year.
Partnership working provided opportunities for campers to attend from a variety of partner charities. The development of these partnerships have continued into 2022 to provide more opportunities for supporting and working with other children's charities, both on Camp in the Cloud Family Camps and in the creation of content for our Camp 365 programme.
How Over The Wall has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding has enabled Over The Wall to develop the Camp in the Cloud project from a pilot in 2020 to a fully established and tested programme which we are, in 2022, able to run alongside our residential camp programme in order to bring camp to children with serious health challenges and their carers remotely. In 2021 it provided a space for families who were unable to meet at residential camp due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and it continues to remain a valid option for families who are still nervous of the impact on Covid-19 on their child’s health in 2022 as cases are currently on the rise. The development of Camp in the Cloud in 2021 has also laid the foundation for our new online platform Camp365, which is now available for seriously ill children and their carers to access 24/7 and on which they can discover fun camp activities and share with others entirely on their own schedule.
Disabled children and young people (aged 20 and under) will have more opportunities to have fun, develop friendships and do activities they enjoy.
Our post camp evaluation found that taking part in Camp in the Cloud Family Camp activities had a positive impact on the children living with serious illness: Whilst only 46% said that they made new friends, 92% of families who completed our survey said that Camp in the Cloud help them to meet new people and gave them the opportunity to interact with other campers in a similar situation to them. When asked what their child gained from the experience one parent said they had “grown in confidence and was more willing to try new things than before”.
When Max*, the youngest member of the Smith* family, was just two years old, he was diagnosed with haemophilia. Naturally, the risk of trauma-related bleeding episodes and brain damage hugely impacted Max’s childhood. The Smith family were further affected by illness when Max’s brother Billy*, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as a teenager. During these years, Billy had to be fed via a gastric tube, which had a significant impact on his body, mind, and confidence. “Lifelong illness had a huge effect on all of us”, said Max and Billy’s mum, Lisa. “At a time when Max should have had the freedom of childhood, he needed close supervision and monitoring. When Billy should have been making friends and becoming more independent, his confidence was lost, and he became more dependant” When Lisa and the family discovered Over The Wall residential camps, they found a way that the boys could regain some of the independence and fun lost as a result of illness. “Over The Wall camp became their favourite holiday,” said Lisa- “They loved everything about it, the activities, meeting other children with illnesses, the staff and the support they offered. It made a huge change.” “For Billy- as an older child, Camp in the Cloud gave him the opportunity to make contact and stay in touch with all the people he had met previously at Over The Wall’s physical camps. He now spends time online gaming and chatting with them and has really developed friendships.” “Max has never really concentrated when creating artwork, But he did during Camp in the Cloud. He made a beautiful picture with watercolours, which he was really proud of. He had never done anything like that before. He never had the focus or inclination and hadn’t received the encouragement that Over The Wall gave him. It was wonderful that he tried these new things. He loved seeing images of other children’s work too. I have a picture of him doing Camp in the Cloud activities as my screensaver on my phone. You can see from his face that he was genuinely happy in that moment.”
40 carers of sick children will have tried new fun activities and got to spend quality time with their family members.
All the activities in this Camp in the Cloud session were designed to be done as a family so carers were given the opportunity to try new activities and to focus on relaxing together as a family unit. The feedback that we received post camp supported this outcome as 100% of families who filled in our survey said they were closer as a family, and all felt that Camp in the Cloud challenged them and provided an opportunity to try new things. 92% of the children felt that what they had learnt on Camp in the Cloud would help them at school, which is another brilliant outcome of this project. When Families were asked what they gained from Camp in the Cloud these were some of the answers: “We did something fun and positive because of Elodie's allergy not been excluded because of it.” “Learning new craft idea's” “Working as a team and enjoying it” “To try some of the things that we tried at home and to be more creative and interact with parents more."
Billy and Max’s Mum, Lisa, said “Camp in the Cloud came at the best time for us. We were shielding so my husband wasn’t at work, the children weren’t at school- and no one was visiting. At a time when we couldn’t do anything, or go anywhere, we suddenly had this packed schedule of amazing things to do, all in complete safety, which was really lovely. We would look at the calendar, at the days ahead and say- ‘right, that day we are doing that together – and on this day we’ll do that’- and every moment we spent doing the activities together was special.” As an online camp for the whole family, the activities were based around all the members’ involvement, which gave the Johnson’s a chance to spend some valuable time together. “Camp in the Cloud gave us quality time to be a family.” said Lisa, “My husband and Max did a ‘Who done it?’ challenge together, which took them a long time- but they did it! It was fantastic for them to be working together like that.” “The activities gave us the chance to have one to one time with the boys as we worked in pairs which was perfect- but we did do the family quiz all together. It’s not something we would have normally done, but we had a great time and a good laugh trying it. Everything was readily available in the box for us- so we never passed the time trying to find resources, look up how to do anything, or prepare in any way, it was all ready, and set for a scheduled time, which encourages you to do it.” “Just thinking about all those moments, brings back some really happy memories - and if I’m honest, after a long time shielding, Camp in the Cloud was probably the best memory we have for that year.”
Parents and siblings of children with serious illness from 20 families will feel less isolated, more supported and able to cope with the daily challenges they face.
We had some very positive feedback this year from families about Camp in the Cloud decreasing isolation and increasing the level of support that families of sick children felt. 100% of the families surveyed said that as a result of taking part in Camp in the Cloud they felt less isolated and alone, and 85% of participants said that they are more confident in making new friends following the experience. 92% of families agreed that they felt refreshed after the camp day.
As a family camp, Camp in the Cloud also offered parent activities and adult interaction opportunities, which Billy and Max’s Mum Lisa also found useful. “The sessions for adults were great! It was really fun to get involved in the adult quiz, but most importantly it was a unique opportunity for us grownups to offer peer support to each other. Speaking to parents with children who have health challenges makes you feel you aren’t alone.” “It’s nice to do that as it gives you a feeling of hope- and you can also give people who are at different stages to you hope too. It’s a tool to both give and receive. I can’t think of anything apart from Camp in the Cloud that has done that for us.”
20 families managing the serious illness of one of their members will feel happier and more confident as a result of taking part in this project. They will feel less worried about what the future holds and better able to cope with any challenges that come their way.
The vast majority of families participating in our post camp evaluation gave very positive feedback about how Camp in the Cloud improved their wellbeing. In the post-camp survey 92% of families stated we are more confident, and 100% of families said we are happier. 92% of families said we feel more positive about the future, and 92% of families said we feel less worried as a result of taking part in family camp.
Family B’s Story “Everyone will remember where they were on 23 March 2020, when the country went into the first lockdown. But for my family, we had already been in isolation for ten days by that point. And we haven’t left isolation since. We have been cut off from the rest of the world. Our front gate is a frontier we can never cross. My two sons, Reggie and Frankie, both have a condition affecting their immune system. It’s not genetic – in fact it’s very rare for two children in the same family to be impacted. It means that if they catch a cold, it can quickly turn into pneumonia. If they catch a bug, it can be life-threatening. With the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country, we had no choice. To save our boys’ lives, we had to lockdown. It’s not been easy. The hardest part is feeling that the two boys, and sister Maisie, are missing out on the magical experiences that make childhood memorable. No holidays. No trips to the beach. No sleepovers with friends or birthday parties with their classmates. No visits from big sister Lily. And while myself and Dad do our best to be parents, friends, teachers and entertainers, it really is just us. That all changed when generous people like you helped our children enjoy the magic and mischief of childhood with Over the Wall’s virtual, at-home camp experience: Camp in the Cloud. Coronavirus cancelled any holiday plans we might have made. So we decided to treat Camp in the Cloud as our holiday! When the box arrived through our door, it was like opening a box of sunshine. We put on our best going out clothes and left the real world behind. We may have been stuck behind the front gate. But our imaginations took off on all sorts of adventures. We took part in the family camps, putting on face paint, getting stuck into arts and crafts, and unravelling the puzzles of the mystery box. Just doing something a bit different gave my children a new confidence that they could try new things. For me and Dad, seeing our kids laugh and play and giggle and concentrate – to see them learning new skills and making new friends and having new experiences, that was the greatest gift. It wasn’t just the kids. There were activities for grown-ups too. We took part in fun quizzes and spoke to other parents who had faced similar challenges throughout the lockdowns. After months of being just us, Camp in the Cloud helped us feel less alone.”