Two local philanthropists are laying down the gauntlet to other generous people and organisations to help make Taranaki’s inaugural Club R & R, a fun family camp for children with disabilities and their families, an annual event. 

“It was a dream being able to have a custom-designed camp for our children with disabilities and their siblings, who often miss out too,” says Conductive Education’s Craig Nielsen and father to Zak who got his first taste of an outdoor camp.

The vision for the camp came from one of Te Karaka Foundation’s generous donors, who has a passion for helping children. She was keen on creating something as a tribute to her philanthropically minded parents (the R and R from the camp’s name are her parents’ initials). Together with another donor the pair helped make Nancy’s vision come alive.

“I was thrilled with the camp and what I enjoyed most was seeing everyone helping each other to have fun – the whole week had a feeling of connectedness and kindness – people working together for each other’s enjoyment,” says Te Karaka’s donor.

“I had tears in my eyes watching a teenager, who had volunteered his time at the camp, especially take a young boy a banana and pointing out he remembered how much the boy liked them, it was a simple gesture but laden with kindness,” she adds.

Nancy’s vision was bought to life by Te Karaka who worked with Conductive Education on resourcing and planning the camp.

“This is just one way we have helped generous individuals support a cause close to their hearts – our donor had a dream – we helped to make it a reality,” says Te Karaka Foundation CE Grace Wesolowska.

“There were so many highlights for the children and their families, but the opportunity to connect with peers and other people in the same boat stood out and is driving us to make the camp an annual event,” says Nielsen.

When the children were asked what they liked best about the camp, Daniel said: “the pirate ship”, while Olivia liked the water play and anything messy.

Carer Janine commented on how she “loved seeing everyone make it happen for everyone else and having lots of fun in the process”, another said she loved “having a week out of the house!”. Rae loved “seeing the positive interaction between children and adults,” while Krystal was hard pushed to settle on one highlight but said “it was cool seeing the kids flying in the trees”.

“We were very lucky to have amazing support from parents, carers and volunteers,” says Craig.

The five-day camp held at Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre (TOPEC), just outside New Plymouth, catered to 19 young children with disabilities. Including the siblings who attended there were 36 children in total.