The first Camp Quality was established by Vera Entwistle in 1983 in Sydney, Australia. The first year was extremely difficult. Promised corporate funding was suddenly cancelled even though 20 children were already signed up for camp. The Saints Church, Rotary, Lions, Apex and many others heard of the plight and pulled together to provide funding.
Yet many people felt the camp would never by a reality. "Parents of such sick children will never entrust them to you." "You will never find volunteers who will work one-on-one with a child with cancer." "You will never find doctors and nurses willing to give their time free of charge."
In spite of the hurdles, that first camp was a success. The week ended $389 in the red, but that was just another challenge!
The love and caring of that first camp has now spread to 57 camps in 19 countries. The Camp Quality USA branch has 15 camps in 10 states. Camp Quality came to Illinois in 1995.
Camp Quality is all about fun. Cancer is NOT fun. So Camp strives to give children a break from the treatment and misery of the disease. The week of camp also gives a break to parents.
Any child age 5 to 17 who has been diagnosed with cancer is welcome to attend this one week summer camp. Each child is assigned to a carefully chosen companion. This one-on-one relationship provides for excellent care and supervision, and usually develops into a close friendship which lasts throughout the year. Doctors and nurses are at camp on a 24/7 basis. There is no charge to families.
Camp activities vary each year. We have taken airplane rides, helicopter rides, motorcycle rides, even elephant and camel rides. We go fishing and play games and make crafts. We have taken many trips to places such as the Lansing Airport and to Medieval Times.
A very important part of camp is building relationships. Many campers have developed friendships with each other which continue year after year. And campers who have graduated from the program are now starting to come back as companions.
1995 - Ed Leverenz volunteered at a camp in another state. He returned home determined to bring the program to Illinois.
He began by contacting good friends at the Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. Diane Nowaczyk and Penny Heinzman were inspired by the program and agreed to help. The National Camp Quality office was contacted for guidelines. Seed money was provided by the East Side and Lansing Lions Clubs (Illinois) Thirty one children attended the first camp which was held August 13 - 19, 1995.
That first week was during the 1995 100-degree heat wave and the cabins at Camp Manitoqua in Frankfort, Illinois have no air-conditioning. The staff was new and inexperienced, but their love and caring overcame all difficulties. The beautiful camp pool helped, too!
1996 - Ed stepped down and Diane became the new Camp Director. With much support from the Community Hospital, forty-one children were able to attend camp.
1997 - Word of camp was spreading, and forty-two children attended.
1998 - A very difficult decision had to be made. When a child has cancer, the entire family suffers. So, siblings were also allowed to attend camp. However, as word of camp spread, more children began to apply for camp than facilities could handle. Beginning in 1998, applications for camp were accepted from cancer patients only. Forty-two children attended.
1999 - Camp grew again. Forty-seven campers attended.
2000 - Fifty-four campers attended.
2001 - Fifty-six campers attended.
2002 - We have grown to a total of sixty campers, and once again have reached capacity. We are looking for an alternate site to accommodate our needs.
2003 - Sixty campers were accepted, but due to illness fifty-seven campers attended.
2004 - Sixty-one campers attended.
2005 - Sixty-five campers were accepted, but due to illness, sixty-three campers attended.
2006 - Sixty-three campers attended.
2007 - Sixty-two campers attended. Diane Nowaczyk retired after twelve years as director. She turned over her directorship to Mary Clinnin who had been Treasurer since 2004 and a companion before that, starting in 1998.
2008 - We completed our 14th camp with 70 campers...the most ever!
2009 - Our 15th Anniversary was a huge success with 78 campers in attendance.
2010 - We grew once again to 80 campers in attendance at camp.
2011 - We added an overnight family event for all campers registered for camp and their families. We instituted our new camper acceptance policy to allow more children to experience the week of camp, while continuing to offer our year round activities to all registered campers. We had 95 children registered and 80 who were expected to attend camp.
2012 - Looking forward to next year's camp activities!