Help kids with facial differences become leaders

 
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Having a facial difference can be a very lonely and overwhelming experience. Many children who have facial differences experience staring, taunting and bullying on a daily basis, and in turn often struggle with loneliness and depression. 

Today, you can help provide a life-changing experience to a child living with a facial difference - send them to Camp Trailblazers and take them from exclusion to inclusion. You can help provide this life changing experience for 12 children from Saskatchewan by enabling them to attend Camp Trailblazers in Manitoba this September. Because of where they live, there are no programs like this near them, and often not a lot of support nearby.

Some of these children have never met anyone else with a facial difference and often feel alone and isolated in their communities. It is so important for them to know that they are not alone in their journey with a facial difference. 

100% of your donation will go towards covering all costs including air travel to our camp in Manitoba, food, accommodations, programming and lots of fun. 

You will make a difference to these 12 children. At Camp Trailblazers, they get to explore and discover their abilities, interests and challenges in a supportive environment. A circle of friends will allow them to safely open up and share some of their most painful experiences of living with a facial difference. It will empower them, build resilience and allow them to embrace their difference. Camp Trailblazers will change their lives.

"She ran off the bus straight towards me, and with not even a hello she blurted out, "Can I go next year???" All the way home, I got to hear her delightful experiences at camp.  She was truly amazed that there were others with cleft lip and palate – even though we go to the hospital clinic, she has never met anyone else like her. She wears her Camp Trailblazers t-shirt at least 3 days of the week. She even did a project at school on Camp Trailblazers. When I look at the pictures that have been posted of camp, she looks a bit quiet and reserved, but she insists that she had the best time ever! I have started a scrapbook of her experiences at Camp Trailblazers, so she can look back on her memories in the years to come. Thank you Camp Trailblazers and AboutFace for being there for her and all the other children!" - Camper's mom

High Ropes Course at Camp Trailblazers
High Ropes Course at Camp Trailblazers

Meet Hannah and Bahar. These two women became involved in AboutFace Camp Trailblazers over the winter of 2013. They were diligent in contacting AboutFace staff asking how they could bring a program like Camp Trailblazers to their patients and families in Saskatchewan. As medical students involved with the Cleft Lip and Palate program at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, they understood the importance of experiential programming and the benefit of camp in developing resiliency in young people. We are so glad their persistency paid off and after several discussions we agreed that while AboutFace might not have the resources to pilot Camp Trailblazers in a new province (yet), we could work together to raise funds to support some of their patients to attend Camp Trailblazers in Manitoba. It was clear that Hannah and Bahar had enthusiasm for the program, but more importantly, they were committed to making it happen. The two of them saw an opportunity to fundraise by taking part in Leap of Faith, but when they realized that some of the money raised from the program was spent on the fundraisers experience of skydiving they quickly decided to opt out of jumping and put all funds towards camp. Hannah and Bahar had originally planned on escorting the campers to camp and attending a medical conference in the area, but as the date approached, they decided that it was more important to spend the whole time with the campers at camp (and we’re glad they did!).

 

“I had previously volunteered for two summers at Camp Liberty with the American Academy of Dermatology which is a camp for children with severe visible dermatological conditions, and I absolutely fell in love with the camp! I witnessed the difference that we were making in these children’s lives, making them more confident and increasing their self-esteem. So when Hannah told me about Camp Trailblazers I was ecstatic to hear that there is a similar organization in Canada! I immediately wanted to get involved.”- Bahar

 

“In September 2014 we worked with AboutFace and Central &Northern Saskatchewan Cleft Lip & Palate Program to send 6Saskatchewan children to Camp Trailblazers Manitoba. We were able to fundraise the required (with added financial support from AF) funds to fly out with the 6 children from Saskatchewan to camp. The Saskatchewan children were quick to engage and make friends with the campers from Alberta and Manitoba. They had a blast at camp participating in all the different activities such horseback riding, wall climbing, archery, swimming, arts and crafts and so much more! For most of the Saskatchewan children this was their first camp experience. It was truly a pleasure to see them enjoy themselves and make new friends.” – Bahar

 

In preparation for camp, Hannah and Bahar arranged for a social gathering and information session for campers and their families. This allowed families to meet each other and learn about Camp Trailblazers. It also helped parents and guardians feel more comfortable withputting their children on a plane and sending them to another provincefor several days. Upon arriving in Winnipeg I was expecting a group of seven tired campers (the group met up with another camper flying in from Alberta), and two weary volunteers who had been at the airport before some people start their work day. I was greeted instead with smiles and laughter as we met up with the group before heading to the bus pick up with the rest of the campers who came from different places around Manitoba. Hannah and Bahar had equipped the campers with treat bags to keep them fed and happy during the long day of travel. It seemed like the group had known each other for ages, quick to share their snacks and help one another with crafts and activities. We were joined by a younger camper from Manitoba who was starting to doubt his decision to join us at camp, and it was great to see both volunteers take time to talk with him and his mother about how they could make this easier for them. It was even more outstanding to see each of the campers making a point to welcome him into the group and talk about how much fun he would have at camp.

The energy and excitement in the small group couldn’t be contained in one room so after a lunch (supplemented by local apples brought over by our friend Cindy at the Manitoba Centre for Craniofacial Difference) Hannah and Bahar offered to take the group to a nearby park. Before we knew it, was time to meet the rest of the campers and head to Camp Arnes.

While we waited for the bus, experienced campers from Manitoba welcomed new friends from out of province and again the group made sure to welcome first time campers who were feeling a bit nervous. Including the out of province campers, we had 22 campers and 7 volunteers, our biggest group yet in Manitoba! We had a fun and busy weekend that included high ropes, rock climbing wall, horse and pony rides, swimming, campfires, rain and a surprise blackout in our cabin! Through it all, the group smiled, laughed and supported each other. Campers from Saskatchewan contributed to group discussions and gave great examples of challenges they have encountered while living with a facial differencealong with personal experience and tools they have used.

“My most memorable moment from camp was on the last day. We all engaged in an activity called warm fuzzies, where we wrote a note to everyone else in the camp and put in an envelope labeled with their name. I didn't get a chance to read the notes that were left in my envelope until I got home from camp. There were several notes from the Saskatchewan children thanking Hannah and I for taking them to camp. Reading the notes brought tears to my eyes, joyous tears of course as I began to appreciate the difference that we have made in these children’s lives.” – Bahar

 

“My favorite activity at camp was one of the AboutFace activity times where we discussed how to face difficult situations like being starred at in public. It was difficult to hear about some of the situations that the campers had been in, but also inspirational to hear about how brave and strong they were. I think Camp Trailblazers is important for kids with facial differences because it gives them the chance to interact with other children with facial differences as well as share some of the challenges they face. It gave the children the opportunity to have fun and be kids, but also time to discuss the challenges they face and how to deal with this and understand that others can relate.” - Hannah None of this would have happened without the consistent energy of Hannah and Bahar. There were times the rest of us would go to bed and they would stay up to study, because med students aren’t always able to take a day off. AboutFace would like recognize the hard work that these women put into our program and they have already committed to bringing more campers to Camp Trailblazers in 2015. It is exciting to think about the future contributions they will continue to make to patients and their families in the facial difference community as health care professionals. We are lucky to have people like them on our team.

Playground
Playground
Group shot at Camp Trailblazers
Group shot at Camp Trailblazers
Friends at Camp
Friends at Camp
Awards at Camp Trailblazers
Awards at Camp Trailblazers

Links:

Taryn
Taryn

You’ve never seen an obstacle course like this before!

          Are you ready for the obstacles? Road race. Archery. Scrabble. Leap frog. High ropes course. Playing catch with a greasy watermelon.

          One look at 13-year old Taryn as she prepares for the high ropes course portion of the obstacle course and you can feel her determination. Her eyes flash with confidence as she takes her first courageous step…

          Kids like Taryn who attend our Camp Trailblazers know a thing or two about obstacles. Girls and boys from 10 to 18 who live with facial differences come to our camp for a chance to connect with other kids like them, and to enjoy a camp experience in a safe, welcoming and positive space.

          Today, I’m inviting you to consider helping kids like Taryn overcome obstacles. Together with other AboutFace donors you’ll help us raise funds to send even more kids to camp next year!

          Now let me tell you how your gift will help kids overcome obstacles.

          Our Camp Trailblazers is a life-changing experience for kids with facial differences. We hear from kids all the time who tell us they feel lonely, isolated or bullied because they are different. Our camp is a place where kids can challenge themselves in a safe, supportive environment, and also gain confidence and build resilience.

           And our obstacle course is a perfect example of all the things kids learn at camp. Our road race represents rising to physical challenges, pushing your body and feeling the exhilaration of being cheered on while you achieve your personal best! Archery—and our high ropes course—build a sense of adventure and taking risks. Scrabble represents creativity and expressing yourself. Leap frog requires teamwork, and creates a sense of belonging. And as for playing catch with a greasy watermelon…first of all it’s harder than it sounds, but more importantly, we laugh and share in wonderful silliness!

          Take a moment and imagine Taryn, arms raised in victory as she steps off the high ropes course, feeling like she could conquer any other obstacle in her way!

          Please, hold on to that feeling and make your gift today. You can help us send 125 more kids to Camp Trailblazers in 2015, giving them the chance of a lifetime like Taryn!

Camp Trailblazers
Camp Trailblazers
Taryn Camp Trailblazers
Taryn Camp Trailblazers

Links:

Hayley rocking her prosthetics!
Hayley rocking her prosthetics!

Katie and Hayley have a lot in common, they are both young ladies with microtia. They both are members of AboutFace and have attended our Camp Trailblazers programs and both have always been very self-conscious of their ears. I recently came across both of these posts on their personal Facebook pages (obviously I got permission to share this with you) within a week of each other. Hayley had just done a presentation to a group of 120+ on behalf of AboutFace at a fundraising golf tournament and Katie had just come home from a week at Camp Trailblazers. I’d also like to add that Katie took that first picture ever of her showing her ears while at Camp Trailblazers.  

Through their years of involvement with AboutFace both of these young women have developed their confidence and self esteem and are proudly ready to take on the world! Here’s what the girls had to say…

"I have Treacher Collins Syndrome, I have a cleft palate, and I have microtia- which basically means my ears didn't fully develop. I used to hate my ears, I used to be so upset because I wanted to get them pierced like all the other girls. I used to long for ears that I could actually listen to music normally with. I constantly feel like covering my face with my hair, and until now, I've never had a photo of myself with my ears totally exposed, let alone my hair just being in a ponytail. I'm tired of feeling ashamed of my ears, just because they look different. As much as some days they make me want to crawl into a hole, they've also made me stronger. I want to celebrate that, I want to celebrate the fact that I'm unique, I want to celebrate the fact that I've made so many beautiful friendships and that I have a whole family because of my syndrome.
So I'm done. I'm done with people telling me I'm not good enough just because of the way I look. I'm done with strangers on the street pointing and staring. I'm done with the name calling and the negativity. I'm done with feeling like it's my fault I was born the way I was, but because of all the love and support I'm so blessed to have, I now know it isn't.
Really, this post isn't for me at all, 
this is for my beautiful friends from AboutFace, who continually give me the love and support that I could not live without. They are the most hilarious, wise, generous, kind-hearted, and intelligent people you will ever have the honour to meet. But they are also the people who go through so much crap that no one should ever have to go through just because they're different. And I'm sooo very done with that. Let's make different a good thing. Heck, let's make it a great thing. 
Let's celebrate it." – Katie

"I've been waiting a little while to be officially open with this. Throughout August, I was in and out of Sunnybrook Hospital for a very important procedure. I was actually having prosthetic ears made, and these are the final product. There were two options for myself with this procedure. I could either have a surgical procedure for the prosthetics, or I could have these, which stick on with a specific type of glue. The reason I didn't get the surgical procedure is because I feel that permanently ridding a part of my body just because I don't particularly like it will not help me in my journey of self-acceptance. Words cannot describe how excited and thankful I am for my new prosthetic ears " – Hayley

Katie - look at my ears!
Katie - look at my ears!

Links:

Kariym
Kariym

After I was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, my parents became walking encyclopaedias of medical information. Yet, they had no idea what having a facial difference would mean for me as a child, or for them as parents. Through AboutFace, they found reassurance that despite the challenges that lay ahead – with love and dedication, we could navigate a world that often forgets that each person is worth so much more than their appearance alone.

AboutFace taught me that I was not alone in having a facial difference, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed. I learned how to advocate for myself, how to teach others about facial differences, and how to express what mine means to me. Eager to give back, I have been an avid AboutFace volunteer for the past 14 years. I’m always happy to speak publically on medical or family panels, and to discuss my experiences with Treacher Collins with kids and teens with TCS, and their parents. I know that each moment that I spend helping AboutFace to reach their goals, I am making a difference in our community and our nation.

Thus, when I was invited to become a camp counselor during a gap year between degrees, I was excited. I was also nervous, however, as I hadn’t attended the camp as a teenager. I simply did not know what to expect – I wasn’t sure what role I needed to fill for the campers, or how to ensure that they got the best camp experience possible. What was certain, though, was that I wanted to show campers that a facial difference should never hold them back from reaching their fullest potential!

In my time as counselor, I realized that many individuals have unique facial differences, and that all of us have a story to tell. Our campers continually demonstrate remarkable strengths of character and aptitude. I learned a little about food, electrical engineering, camp flora, and even some new jokes. But I also learned that campers have concerns about bullying, relationships, and even their careers. Together, we share our experiences and help each other grow. Like me, campers get to realize that they aren’t alone. We do this all while forging new friendships and helping to prepare ourselves to face our daily challenges.

It is this sense of community that makes Camp Trailblazers so wonderful. As children and adults with facial differences, we have to mature more quickly as a result of our day-to-day experiences. Camp Trailblazers is a place for campers to be who they really are, be their own age, and remember that they are all young people with heart, passion, hopes and dreams. Trailblazers leave camp knowing that they are unique individuals living with a facial difference – not defined exclusively by their face. That gives me hope that one day, each camper will reach their true potential – something I’m proud to help them achieve.

Kariym has been a dedicated AboutFace volunteer for many years. He has spoken at various conferences, played piano for several AboutFace events, and of course has been a wonderful Camp Trailblazers counselor. We are so proud to have him in our AboutFace family! Thank you Kariym for all that you do!

Kariym and Camper
Kariym and Camper

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Organization

AboutFace

North York, Ontario, Canada
http://www.aboutface.ca

Project Leader

Anna Pileggi

Executive Director
Toronto, Ontario Canada

Where is this project located?

Map of Help kids with facial differences become leaders