It is a huge task to undertake: accommodation, food and fun for 34 families, including 78 children, over an entire weekend from Friday to Sunday. This means catering for more than 200 people for each meal.
Yet the Manning River Lions Club provide all of this every year for Camp Memories, an annual camping weekend catering for children with disabilities aged birth to 16, and their families, including able-bodied siblings.
Many, many volunteer hours and funds go into making these weekends something that really do create treasured memories in the families’ lives.
While the adults get a chance to sit back and relax, the children are provided with a variety of fun activities. This year that included camel rides, archery, a waterslide, a petting farm, mini train rides, arts and crafts, movie nights and swimming.
On Sunday the families also enjoyed musical entertainment and visits from police, the Tinonee Rural Fire Service brigade, and an ambulance.
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“If you believe the team leaders and the people who attended, it was the best one so far,” organiser Peter Baker said.
“The weather was perfect and everything ran well. You could tell by the excitement on the kids that they were having a ball, and the parents were able to relax.”
The first Camp Memories was organised and conducted in 2001 by Kevin and May Sharp on their property at Pampoolah. Kevin and May continued Camp Memories for 11 years until health issues made it difficult for them to continue their work.
Five years ago, the Manning River Lions Club took over the reigns and are happily carrying on the wonderful work the Sharps started.
Rod and Jill Illidge were last year jointly honoured as Greater Taree Citizen of the Year for their work hosting Camp Memories on their Taree South property.
“They’re just brilliant. They let us take over the place for basically the last fortnight in setting up and nothing is too much trouble,” Peter said.
“They just say, ‘here’s the place; do with it as you want’. They just hand the place over to us. It’s brilliant.”