Originally Published: February 1994
Most of us here in the Tweed Valley will not have personally met Vera Entwistle. Some were privileged recently at the Smokehouse Complex when this remarkable lady spoke about Camp Quality. Vera is the founder of Camp Quality, an Australian success story worth sharing.
Anyone who has been affected intimately by cancer realises the impact on the family. When it is a child who is diagnosed with cancer, the child is often stripped of much of their childhood and thrust into an adult world of hospital visits and pain. It is for such children that the unique Camp Quality program exists, thanks to the determination of Vera.
Vera spoke frankly about the original driving force behind her dream. Living in Atlanta, 11 years ago, Vera’s father committed suicide, and for her, her grief was almost unbearable. Vera happened to read about a 12-year-old girl suffering from an inoperable brain tumour. Realising the girl was also grieving, she decided to visit her. Vera learnt the girl had only three months to live. The only time she laughed was when her father took her and a few of her friends from the cancer ward, out of the hospital, and on a camp.
Shortly after, Vera and her family came to Australia to live. Remembering the 12-year-old girl, and the camp that brightened her life, Vera sought contact with a similar camp in Australia, only to discover there was no known program. “That was ten years ago,” said Vera,“I was taken to a cancer unit, where it almost broke my heart, and I was determined I was going to put together a camp myself.”
Not to be daunted, Vera announced, “We are either going to have a spectacular successor a spectacular failure, and I asked Rotary Balmain for help. It was like a chain link reaction, they listened, and they pitched in and together, we made that first camp in 1983 a wonderful success.”
Vera has spoken to over 600 Rotary clubs. Every one gave help in some way. She spoke to other service clubs and since Camp Quality’s establishment in Sydney, 11 other locations circle the coastline of Australia.
“If you could see Australia through my eyes,” said Vera, “See the hearts of people warm to our program, if you could see some of our senior citizens volunteering their help, then you would see the real Australia. You see the children open up like flowers on these camps, smiling faces, not asking for pity, just wanting to have a good time.
Vera explains that Ansett Airlines fly her, free, to various destinations as she continues to go about her work.The Lions Club in New Zealand became aware of her dedication, and Qantas offered to fly her there to what Vera terms, “kick start” Camp Quality there. Vera’s expertise helped to register and set up camps in ten different overseas countries.“There is still a lot more work to be done,” said Vera, “unfortunately I will not be able to attend your April camp because of a commitment in Ireland and Prague.
Vera’s dream for Camp Quality has captured the hearts of many Australians. While it does not seek or receive government funds, corporate donors are urgently required to help with the much needed administrative support operations. Already Vera’s dream has touched the hearts of the Tweed and with the community’s support Camp Quality will become a reality from Sunday April 3 to 9 at the Sullivan’s Pioneer Park in South Tweed.
The product list is long and varied, from fruit and vegetables to bakery and grocery lines. Businesses or individuals who can offer to provide products are asked to contact Alan Nicholls on
(075) 368 759 urgently to ensure all needs are covered.