Camp Quality volunteer
FUN TIMES: Naite Skidmore, left, and Jordan Doran with long-term volunteer Denis Young. Picture: Lily Ray
DENIS Young has spent almost half of his 60years volunteering for Camp Quality.
The 60-year-old from Tenambit this month won Camp Quality’s Gillard Volunteer Award for his 24years of service. The award, named after one of Camp Quality’s longest-standing board members, is awarded to one person per state per year who is dedicated to helping children with cancer.
Mr Young was in his mid-30s with a good job, healthy family and comfortable life – in his words, ‘‘just pottering along’’ – when his life changed.
He was visiting a friend’s son who was living with a brain tumour when the child’s Camp Quality companion turned up.
‘‘This young bloke was of exceptional character,’’ said Mr Young.
‘‘I thought, ‘What a wonderful thing to see, a young guy at uni doing stuff like this’.
‘‘He made an impact on me, so I got in touch with the local Camp Quality office in Newcastle and never looked back.’’
Mr Young said the programs Camp Quality provide make a difference.
‘‘I’ve got physical proof that the services and programs provide many benefits for children and their family,’’ he said.
‘‘Going to my first camp, I didn’t know what to expect, but any fears or doubts I may have had just flew out the door when the kids arrived.
‘‘The kids just blew me away when I saw their happy and excited anticipation at arriving at camp.
‘‘It helps them forget the weekly grind of treatment and takes them away from that environment. It also gives mums and dads some relief.
‘‘You see how much fun they have rekindling friendships with kids they haven’t seen for months, or since the last camp, or treatment at the hospital.
‘‘It’s kids networking with other kids who have had similar issues.’’
Mr Young said another great part of the program was working with other volunteers and staff.
‘‘They’re just a really good bunch of people and so supportive of each other,’’ he said.
‘‘They’re good people to be around and they all come with the right motives and focus.’’
He said his family has been behind him 100per cent of the way.
‘‘I hope it’s helped with their development and understanding and how they approach life,’’ he said.
Since retiring four years ago from his job in Commercial Services at the University of Newcastle, Mr Young has been working in the local Camp Quality office at least one day a week on top of his other volunteering commitments.
‘‘Retirement has allowed me to do extra work for the organisation such as administrative tasks, volunteer recruitment and training, among other things,’’ he said.
He encourages more men to take part in the program as camp companions and volunteers.
‘‘It’s a very rewarding experience and after camp you connect with all the new people you’ve met,’’ he said. Volunteer adviser Tegan Davies said Mr Young was ‘‘a true superstar’’, and hoped he would inspire other men in the Hunter to step up and volunteer.
Female volunteers number 67, with males at just 31.
To register as a volunteer visit campquality.org.au/volunteer or phone (free call) 1300662267.