Summerfest has increased camper’s self-confidence, introduced her to new passions

September 8, 2016

By Deron Hamel

Since Laura Cunningham’s daughter, Sara, began attending Summerfest Camp eight years ago, she has gained a lot of self-confidence and has discovered two passions: archery and swimming. Sara is also planning to complete training so she can become a camp counsellor.

Sara Cunningham is seen here taking aim at a target with a bow and arrow. Archery is one of the passions Sara has discovered through Summerfest Camp.
Sara Cunningham is seen here taking aim at a target with a bow and arrow. Archery is one of the passions Sara has discovered through Summerfest Camp.

Sara, now 15, attended Summerfest Camp for the first time when she was seven. Laura says she thought the experience was a “huge benefit” and Sara wanted to continue attending each summer.

“She has gained a lot of experience from (Summerfest Camp),” Laura tells Voices of Epilepsy. “She has grown with her maturity, with her confidence, with her self-esteem and she certainly has made tons of friends over the years.”

Held near Orillia at Camp Couchiching every summer, Summerfest Camp enables children aged six to 15 who are living with seizure disorders to attend camp with other children. The camp has the resources to meet the needs of children living with epilepsy and provides a setting where they can enjoy a carefree camping experience.

Like many parents, Laura says she was apprehensive the first year Sara went to camp.

“The first time she went to camp, I was obviously very nervous because she has epilepsy, so being away from home for two weeks and not knowing whether she would have a seizure while she was gone was pretty nerve-racking,” Laura recalls.

“But she definitely met all the challenges involved and she had a lot of fun, so that helped us the next summer when she wanted to attend again.”

Every summer Sara takes archery classes at Summerfest Camp, and it has become a passion of hers. She also takes instructional swimming and has reached her Level 8 Canadian Red Cross swimming certification, Laura says, noting Sara’s interests in archery and swimming have continued beyond camp.

Laura also commends the counsellors at Camp Couchiching. She notes that Sara has had three seizures on different occasions at camp. But the counsellors and nursing staff “went above and beyond” to keep her parents up to date on her condition and even stayed with her overnight when she had been admitted to hospital.

“Having such a great, caring staff has been amazing and we, as parents, know that she is in good hands while she is there,” Laura says.

Summerfest Camp was founded in 1994 by Anita Allen, a neurology clinic nurse at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

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One response on “Summerfest has increased camper’s self-confidence, introduced her to new passions

  1. dot

    It sounds like an amazing camp.. I wish I had of known about it when my son was younger.. My questions is.. does anyone ever think it could be possible to open up either a new camp or different times to allowfor ages say 20 – 30..My son is epileptic, but also visually impaired and hypoglycemic, I have only ever been able to find one camp that would take him. That also ended when he turned 18.. My son because of all his medical issues in some ways is still like a teen ager, although he will be 25 in a week.. It would be nice to be able to let him enjoy things like this somewhere..

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