The 2019 Arthritis New Zealand Children’s Camp was a roaring success. Nearly 100 people attended the weekend-long event that took place from Friday 1 March to Sunday 3 March in Matamata.

The children discussed their challenges of living with arthritis and shared their solutions with each other in support group sessions. In these groups, they found friends and peers who have a similar diagnosis and are walking the same path.

The other side of camp was to give the children a jam-packed weekend full of activities. These included games inside the gym and out in the sun, including the flying kiwi, flying fox, mini golf, Burma trail, foam slide, archery, wall climbing, kayaking, building rafts and racing them, top town, swimming, and heaps more.

Eight-year-old Rosie Goldie-Anderson was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis 18 months ago. “I made one friend, Isla. She is my age and has the same diagnosis as me and takes the same medicine. She even likes Harry Potter, like me!” she said.

Dan, Rosie’s dad, said that going to camp and meeting other families on the same journey was fantastic, especially because they come from a remote location on the South Island. “It’s really great to be around people who understand the journey to diagnosis, medication, and dealing with this condition that flares and goes away,” he said.

While the children had the time of their lives, parents were treated to in-depth informative sessions presented by members of the New Zealand Paediatric Rheumatology Service. Physiotherapist Rachel Callear, nurse specialist Nicola Gray, and paediatric rheumatologist Priscilla Campbell-Stokes.

The teen and youth leaders had one extra day before camp and were taught about leadership to help run activities during camp. All of the youth leaders were aged from 15 years and older and each one has a form of arthritis. Five brave teenagers Madi, Evelyn, Jayden, TP and Tessa opted to be on the panel in front of the parents and introduce themselves and their journey, followed by an opportunity for parents to ask the teens questions about living with arthritis as a youngster. Parents came away from the session with quotes they will carry with them forever. “One of them said ‘it does get better, and the pain won’t last forever’, when talking about flare-ups, and that will stay with me,” said Dan.

Arthritis New Zealand CE Philip Kearney is proud of the annual Children’s Camp. “This event is one of our flagship events . It is truly humbling to hear about the experiences of both the children and parents alike. To see the children making new friends, trying out activities and just being ‘kids’ is really rewarding. The ability for parents to hear from specialists, share their journeys and support each other is also invaluable. My thanks must go to the amazing group of volunteers and staff that helped make this possible.”

Arthritis can affect anyone at any age and new figures* released in 2018 reveal that more than 647,000 people in New Zealand have arthritis, 48% of which are of working age.

The report shows that there are increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with arthritis and the number is projected to be one million by 2040.

Help us make a difference for the 647,000 + affected by arthritis in New Zealand. To donate towards the costs of Children’s Camp, visit www.arthritis.org.nz or give $20 by dialling 0900 333 20.

*Economic Cost of Arthritis in New Zealand 2018. Deloitte Access Economics.       

Photo Credit: www.markbarber.co.nz 

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