Kids with critically ill family members know what it’s like to live with isolation, and Camp Triumph, in Mapeque, P.E.I., has been helping them through it for 16 years.
“Often, they’re in the background. It’s tough for them because they have a lot of responsibilities at a young age that ‘normal’, quote, un-quote, kids might not have and a lot of stress about the family situation and a lot of uncertainty,” said camp director Matthew Sheriko.
At Camp Triumph, though, they’re the ones who get to be the star.
“They have a chance to just be free, to be what they say is their best self,” said Sheriko.
This year the pandemic made it hard for the camp to continue its usual fundraising activities, so Sheriko and former camper, now-counsellor Callie Thomson came up with a plan.
The Triumphant 5K, a running race, is set to go Saturday.
Beginning in front of Camp Triumph’s lodge, the race continues through the camp and through Cabot Park before returning to the lodge for door prizes and a reception.
The starting gun for the men’s race goes off at 1 p.m., the women begin their race at 2:30 p.m. and the family run/walk starts at 4 p.m.
The event is approved by Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, and will hopefully go a long way to keeping the camp going.
Sheriko knows what’s it’s like to be in the shoes of the campers he welcomes.
Before he was born, his father was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given just months to live.
He made it another 18 years, but they weren’t easy, said Kathi Sheriko, Matthew’s mom and a full-time volunteer for Camp Triumph.
It was Matthew’s older brother who suggested a camp for kids like them.
“Most people can rise to a crisis, said Kathi. “But year after year, that’s different.”
The camp offers a ropes challenge course, nightly campfires and lots of outdoor time with kids like them.
“We know from what the kids tell us, that it makes a big difference, so we have to find a way (to keep going),” said Kathi.
She and Matthew are passionate about maintaining – and improving – the camp experience for their campers.
“Everyone got a glimpse into what isolation feels like with the pandemic and that’s kind of the reality of a lot of these kids’ lives,” said Matthew. “They have really great potential as well because they have a different perspective on life.”
Alison Jenkins is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.