Support for Every Family Member

Campers enjoying camp outside

Oscar was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at two-and-a-half years old. It was on the treatment floor that we met him, his brother Liam and his mother Heather, for the first time.

“Oscar was big into superheroes back then,” recalls Heather. “Two Campfire Circle team members dressed up as superheroes and it cheered him right up.”

When a child is diagnosed with cancer or a serious illness, it becomes front and centre. Children are constantly surrounded by people who hover – parents, doctors and nurses.

“I’m always thinking of consequences,” explains Heather. “But with Campfire Circle, they met Oscar where he was with no judgment. Kids gain back their independence. They become their own individuals. As a parent, it allows me to be at ease, knowing that there’s space for him to be a kid and grow.”

What began with in-hospital programs led to day camps at our Toronto office and eventually overnight camp, both at Rainbow Lake and Muskoka. To Heather’s astonishment, Oscar stayed—and loved—his first camp experience.

Now 13, Oscar returned to summer camp after a long pandemic hiatus. When Heather came to pick him up, she described an Oscar that she hadn’t seen in more than two years.

“He was himself again,” she says.

A diagnosis also impacts the whole family, and Campfire Circle supports every member—parents and siblings included. “Siblings go through a difficult time, but in a different way,” says Heather.

This summer, Liam attended Campfire Circle’s first siblings-only overnight camp. “He’s 16 years old now,” says Heather. “Liam couldn’t stop talking about his experience. He’s processing things that happened 10 years ago. Because he’s around other siblings, he felt comfortable enough to say things that other kids wouldn’t have been able to understand.”

Even though summer adventures have ended, Liam is still in daily contact with some of his cabin mates, and they caught up in person again recently at a Muskoka activity.

“So much of our journey includes Campfire Circle,” says Heather. “Liam is looking forward to giving back. He wants to be a counsellor and become a lifeguard. In fact, we all want to volunteer once the kids are past the age of going to camp.”

Supporting Campfire Circle ensures programs are provided at no cost to families.

“Campfire Circle was the only thing that got us through,” says Heather. “But it’s never been about activities – it’s the place. It’s the atmosphere. It’s truly a magical place. Happy moments in bad times.”