What do you get if you cross teenagers, tents and lots of creepy crawlies? “Woodlarks Get Me Out of Here!’ of course!
On 5th of July, thirteen teenagers supported by Shooting Star Children’s Hospices from both Christopher’s and Shooting Star House, came together with some of our fantastic care team to enjoy a special weekend in the great outdoors at the amazing Woodlarks.
The annual trip marks the seventh year at Woodlarks. The Farnham based residential activity centre provides accessible camping for people with all kinds of disabilities. The site is based across 12 acres of field and woodland, with accessible buildings, outdoor heated swimming pool and woodland trails. The setting provides a perfect backdrop for some of our supported teenagers, who all have life-limiting conditions with a range of complex needs, to have a weekend of fun and independence in a safe environment, encouraging team work and friendship.
This year’s theme was ‘Woodlarks Get Me Out of Here’ – with various creepy (crawlie!) challenges in store for the group. Our care team had been plotting away to create as many fun and messy challenges as they could think of for the teens to take part in.
The group had to take on the challenges to try and win Woodlarks Wonga, which could be exchanged for treats. First up were cleverly disguised boxes where they had to put their hands in and rummage around to find the wonga…little did they know they were also full of live critters! Other challenges included a line of balloons filled with bugs, custard and gunge which they had to pop and retrieve any wonga they could find.
In the afternoon things got wet and wide, with the group having to work in teams to transport water through a course, getting as much as they could to the finish line. Naturally this wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds particularly with obstacles and holes in buckets.
Most people feel the camping experience brings you back to nature, but we doubt the group were expecting to get quite so up close and personal when they were given some lovely bugs to hold and bravely stroke if they wished.
There was also an opportunity to try some edible bugs, which was received with glee and groans in equal measure – don’t think they count as one of your five a day!
To help wash down the critters the group were able to create their own ‘freak shakes’ – delicious milkshakes complete with all the sweet toppings you can balance on top – from doughnuts and whipped cream to sweets and chocolate bars. To finish their full on day the teens were treated to a special sing-a-long screening of The Greatest Showman before enjoying the wheelchair-friendly grounds and retiring to their tents.
The next day the group made use of the heated outdoor pool. Swimming is often an activity that isn’t possible to the children we support, given accessibility difficulties or water temperature. With the care team present and disabled-friendly changing rooms and equipment, the teenagers could let their hair down and have fun.
The group also had a chance to have some free time to go off into the woods, explore and simply spend some time with their peers.
Vikki German, Play and Activities Coordinator at Shooting Star House who organised the weekend said, “Feedback from the kids has been that they all had a really fun weekend. Some of those who were shyer at the start of the weekend really came out of themselves and we could see them embracing their independence.”
Sharon Jones, Lead Nurse at Christopher’s who helped at the weekend said, “The young people seemed to have a fantastic time and got really involved with all of the activities. It was great to see them growing in confidence over the weekend and coming out of their shells (some had further to come out than others)! Seeing them all bond together as a group was lovely and I am sure firm friendships have developed during their time together. It was a privilege to be part of. I would like to say a special thank you to Vikki for all the work she put in organising and running the weekend and it was thanks to her that it was such a success.”
Weekend’s away like Woodlarks are really important for the young people we support, giving them a chance to experience some independence, which for young people with life-limiting conditions cannot always be so straightforward.
Shooting Star Children’s Hospices youth groups meet once a month and offer teenagers with life-limiting conditions the opportunity to spend time with others their own age, doing fun activities they enjoy despite their condition or ability. Find out more about the support we offer here.