Carissa & Rachel’s Story

The Magic of camp for kids across Ontario

We bring kids to camp and camp to kids across Ontario.  CAMPFIRE CIRCLE Camper, Carissa, and her Mom, Rachel, experienced the magic of camp in all sorts of places from hospitals to their hometown of Ottawa to overnight camp.

Carissa in wheelchair laughing with other campers


In 2015, on her eighth birthday, Carissa was diagnosed with cancer. Carissa’s mom, Rachel, says that began an extended stay at Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). “Our daughter spent 11-and-a-half months at MCH, without discharge. She had a lot of complications; she lost her mobility to walk.”

Living in Ottawa, Carissa and her family discovered CAMPFIRE CIRCLE at MCH when they met a CAMPFIRE CIRCLE volunteer who “was amazing with Carissa,” says Rachel.

CAMPFIRE CIRCLE expands to Ottawa

“But we were never able to do day or weekend camp because Carissa was too sick. Then CAMPFIRE CIRCLE came to Ottawa.”

And things changed. Carissa experienced the fun of camp at Ottawa’s first CAMPFIRE CIRCLE March Break Day Camp. Carissa was hooked, says her mom who adds she was so grateful that her daughter got to have fun like any other kid. “That was our first real encounter with camp, so I was happy and thankful for CAMPFIRE CIRCLE coming to Ottawa.”


12 days of just being a kid at CAMPFIRE CIRCLE Muskoka

A nurse recommended overnight camp and assured Rachel that Carissa would be well taken care of with on-site oncologists and nurses in a modern, fully functional medical facility at camp. “I was nervous,” says Rachel. “But Carissa was ready. She really wanted to do it because she’s very independent, even though she’s in a wheelchair.”

Carissa experienced camp for the first time last summer. “She loved it,” says her mom.

“I wanted her to only do the seven days, but she insisted she was ready for 12. I was in tears when I got the video and pictures of all the stuff she got to do. She even got to go wakeboarding! And she was with kids like her, which she never really got to do before because she was isolated throughout her treatment,” says Rachel.

Her mom adds that, Carissa “had an amazing time at camp. I can’t thank you enough for Carissa getting her independence. I’m hoping we’re able to do it again next year.”

More stories like this

Oscar’s Story

Camper Oscar's family thanks us and shares how camp helped their family during their son's cancer journey.

Larissa’s Story

CAMPFIRE CIRCLE was a second home to Larissa. Read about her experience as a Camper.

Share your story

If you would like to share your camp story with us, please contact:

Michelle Guignard

Development Coordinator, Annual Giving

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