It started with the sudden loss of my Dad and the lightbulb that switched on when I realised that the people who I felt most comfortable with were the families I was working as a kids physio at Vic Rehab, who had also experienced loss and trauma and who just “got it” they knew what to say and how to be.
It made me think why aren’t we bringing these families together, they are the very best people to be supporting each other, through this experience of ABI that no one else can possibly understand
Then I started getting other heads together, I shared my idea with other passionate people and I found Cath Bucolo who had been busy building a network for young people with an ABI. Our ideas connected and we brought together some families who we were working with and Heads Together Camp was born.
From the start is was about respect, listening to families and what they needed and wanted, it was about putting families first and understanding that they were the experts and we were the ones who needed to learn.
It was about courage, about trying something new and putting yourself out there and believing in the team you were part of. It was about the courage of our first families, people like the McKirdy’s whose kids are all here today as part of our volunteer team. They were 3, 8 and 11 when they first came to camp, and they’ve all been the backbone of our camp kids ever since. It was also about the courage of our first volunteers, like Aaron Purnell, who was our first ABI volunteer and who went from being a 21year old coping with an ABI to becoming a peer mentor and amazing sounding board for parents at camp to finally have someone to talk to about the possibilities for their kids in the future.
It was also about generosity, starting with the generosity of my wonderful Mum Barb who provided the funds to allow Heads Together Camp to become a reality. It was about the generosity of the YMCA who took a chance on our inexperienced crew and gave us the partnership and camp skills we needed. And it’s still about the generosity of all our incredible volunteers who keep coming back to create this amazing space for families to relax and connect.
And along the way camp has become very much about acceptance, about being part of a community who really get that every ABI is different and that we all manage in different ways. It’s about understanding that the experiences families have been through bind us all together as a community and a big extended family who are there to share the ups and the downs, to support others and be supported. Camp gives us all the opportunity to create something meaningful and good from the hard times that you’ve all been through.