Police Youth Liaison Officer for Taree, Brad Barry and his small pal Michael Dowswell were once perfect strangers. That was before Camp Quality connected them. Brad speaks about the impact of cancer in his life and how he is doing what he can to bring a smile to children who face such a great battle.
I have lived in the Manning Great Lakes area all of my life. I grew up in and around Bulahdelah and worked for my parents on their dairy and chicken farming business in the Markwell Valley.
In 2001 I left the family business to travel to Europe. I returned to home and continued to work on the family business until joining the NSW Police Force in 2006 and was posted to the area. In 2008 I won the position as youth liaison officer for the command.
I come from a large family and have had a number of family members lose their battles with cancer. One good mate of mine has been fighting cancer for a number of years now. It is inspirational to watch him keep battling and just taking every day as it comes. This guy is a real legend, and I have never once heard him complain.
Camp Quality is all about having fun. It is a place where the kids attending who are battling cancer can forget about the troubles in their lives and just act like normal kids, doing things that normal kids would do from day to day … playing, having fun, and most importantly, laughing.
I love the fact that kids are in charge; they pretty much do whatever they want, and we are there to look after them. There are little tears, and it is all about life.
Our motto is: ‘Laughter is the best medicine’. It is also a time where families and siblings of children with cancer are provided with some quality time out, away from the day to day caring for a sick child.
The idea came from our fundraising team in the Newcastle Office, headed up by our amazing fundraising coordinator Donna George. We are aiming to raise over $80,000 with this adventure.
In 2008 we travelled to Papua New Guinea and walked the Kokoda Trail. From this, $130,000 was raised for Camp Quality, and we sent the kids on their first ever snow camp to Thredbo NSW.
All the trekkers going to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro are paying their way from their own funds, and all of the sponsorship money raised goes straight to Camp Quality. Companies are offered a sponsorship deal, where they can buy the shirts we are wearing and put their logos on there for advertising. The shirts are followed at $4,000 each. To date, I have three sponsors: Martine’s Café Old Bar, National Foods Limited and Pain Away Sports Therapy Limited.
I don’t think of myself as a mentor to the kids. I find myself as their friend and best mate while we’re on the camps … someone who they can just act like kids around, but have the security of knowing they are safe, because an adult is watching over them.
The theme that we go with is ‘It’s all about the children’. Donna George came up with this when we were on the Kokoda. It was for days, when we were at our last, and starting to wonder why we were all putting ourselves through the hell of the walking trail. Then we thought, “It’s all about the children”, and it worked and picked us up again to continue.
I have always wanted to see Africa and travel through the game parks. I have started to learn a little about Kilimanjaro, and from what I have been reading, it is not going to be a walk in the park.
The oxygen near the peak is half of what we have here at sea level. And it is very hard to train for that.
At Camp Quality, we are always looking for new people to be involved. There are always positions for kids’ companions or on our fundraising teams.
We are also always after new ideas from people and would love to have more people on board if they feel they can bring something to the table. Contact Donna George at the Newcastle office for more information.
> To pledge a donation for Brad on his mission to climb Kilimanjaro for kids with cancer, phone 02 4947 8311.