“At Camp, I get to interact with all of the children and staff. I see miracles happen at Camp. I watch the kids learn and develop and gain independence and grow. Little things matter like kids making friends, dealing with being away from home. I see the kids connecting with others in a safe place, and to see them grow is phenomenal”
It was 32 years ago when Cheryle first stepped off the dock and onto the shores of Moorelands Camp on Lake Kawagama. She came in response to a plea for volunteers which she saw in her church newsletter. Simply stated, the ad requested volunteers to “work with kids at a camp for economically disadvantaged kids.”
Back in 1979, the camp was comprised of only 80 campers and run by the Downtown Churchworker’s Association. She had no idea that it was on an island or what she would be doing during her two-week stint as a volunteer, for which she used her 2 weeks of vacation.
Although a Registered Nurse by profession, Cheryle requested a non-nursing role as she hadn’t had any camp experience. Instead she was told by Doug Varey (the Camp Director) that she would be the Cabin Leader for 8 & 9-year old girls. Even though there was lots of rain, and Cheryle had to deal with a skirmish that resulted in a bloody lip, she says it was “the best 2 weeks I’ve ever spent.” The following year, Cheryle went back for two 2-week sessions (nursing and helping in the bakeshop), and then the next summer, began a full month-long commitment volunteering as the Camp Nurse. In the early 1980’s, Cheryle’s experience with the camp, coupled with her skills as a RN, past work with Girl Guides and Cubs, and professional association membership with the American Camp Nurses Association, saw her hired for summers as the full-time nurse. She also began some administrative duties, and in 1997 became a full-time employee at Moorelands.
Her camp name ‘Sparkles’ was given to her by the children at Moorelands Day Camp when she did training for counsellors in first aid and safety, because she “always has a smile on her face.” It was probably her love of the kids that made her smile. She says, “There’s something special about all of them, even the most challenging ones.” Cheryle tells us how camp nursing has changed over the years. Back when she started, “the ‘Infirmary’ was a place to go when you were sick…a place where band-aids and medication were handed out. “Now, we make an effort to be out and seen by the campers”, says Cheryle. “Our ‘Health Centre’ promotes public health, community health and safety through several different programs such as Handwashing Clinics, Word of the Day (e.g. caring, respect), Attack the Plaque, cabin checks, kitchen checks, and many more. We are out-and-about, checking up on the kids in their environment. Nursing is about so much more than treating sick people.”