One in 1,000 children in Australia suffer from juvenile arthritis. More than 30 of them will be at a New South Wales Central Coast camp later this month.
Camp Footloose, an initiative run by Arthritis & Osteoporosis NSW (AONSW), gives children diagnosed with juvenile arthritis the chance to have fun and achieve personal success in sport and other outdoor activities at their own pace.
Anni Grindrod will be attending this camp as a volunteer leader. Now 23 years old, Anni attended her first camp when she was 9 years old and in a wheelchair. She loved it so much, she returned for the next 8 years.
“I remember the first camp vividly. I was terrified. But as soon as I got there I felt instant relief to find other young people who were struggling with the same things I was. It’s a safe environment in which to open up to other sufferers, and I also found it really inspiring to see the older kids, to see them achieving.”
Nathan Pensini, whose daughter Alyssa has juvenile arthritis, said that the camp made her feel normal.
“When you have juvenile arthritis you have to get injected and take a handful of pills everyday. It made her feel awkward when she would sleepover at a friend’s and had to take all that with her. But at Camp Footloose, everybody’s in the same boat. There’s nothing unusual about it,” he said.
Camp is more than about fun. It is a place for young people to discover their potential in a supportive, encouraging environment. It is a place to learn life skills and how to manage without the full-time, focussed care of parents or guardians.
Sandra Vincent, Chief Executive Officer of AONSW said camp was a great opportunity for parents to make time for themselves.
“While parents want to do everything possible for their children, caring can take its toll on families. Camp offers some respite with the assurance of medical support being at hand for any situation that may come up,” said Mrs Vincent.
“We would love to accommodate more campers each year at Camp Footloose and even start regional camps or weekend retreats for young adults. Funding is the highest barrier.”
Mrs Vincent says there is a general lack of awareness about the prevalence of arthritis in young people.
“There is a critical shortage of specialists with only three paediatric rheumatologists in New South Wales. Increased community support and funding would greatly assist families living with this debilitating condition.”
Camp Footloose will run from September 26 - 30. Sandra Vincent will be in Myuna Bay on Tuesday, 27 September and available to speak to any media present.
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