A group of camp kids boarding a large canoe

Giving back

Giving strength today for an unbreakable tomorrow

Oct 8, 2019

The Arthritis Society and Kids On The Move Camp steer a future of hope for suffering children.

We are committed to the future of Canada, but this means believing in the power of the present. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects 1 in 1,000 Canadian children, making it one of the most common childhood diseases. In Montreal alone, there are 1500 children suffering from arthritis and the numbers are rising. Children who suffer from arthritis confront pain on a daily basis, and it often limits their interaction with their peers. The ‘Kids On The Move Camp’ gives these children the strength to move beyond their diagnosis and live more fulfilling inclusive lives.

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”

- Dalai Lama XIV

According to Elizabeth Kennel, arthritis ‘can be a life sentence’. The most informative years in a child’s life are from their birth to 13 years old. These years are vital at determining how successful a child will be at living with this painful disease. Often there are no visible signs and their peers in school don’t always understand. Arthritis is often followed by various secondary illnesses like depression and Crohn’s disease, making it far more invasive than one would expect. “The disease is very hard on them as they grow up, mentally, physically, and emotionally,” said Elizabeth Kennel, director of revenue development at Kids On The Move Camp. It can put enormous strain on the family network economically and emotionally.

One of the oldest camps of its kind, Kids On The Move, was founded by a rheumatologist and a nurse in 2003. It has survived for so long on the backs of many volunteers, but it’s future recently came under threat. The camp is very expensive to run, with 24-hour care, a clinic on site, and 4 nurses to every child. It can only afford to run for one week every year, for just 50 children. However, in this short time the kids get to be kids, sick, healthy, up or down. That is why our Montreal Community Board donated $20,000 to keep this great program moving forward.

“They so want to be like everybody else and they are so in love with life even though they ache when they walk.”

- Louise Montpetit, educational services coordinator

They adapt activities, if somebody is aching or too tired, he/she won’t feel left out if they ask to sit down. Children at the camp often have a foot in both camps, a normal camp and a sick one. One day they can be perfectly fine, the next day they’re flat out on their backs. At the camp the kids take part in cooking classes, water activities, treasure hunts, massage therapy, and they interact with doctors and nutritionists.

The camp has been running for 11 years now and some of the first children who took part are now adults. The people behind the camp talk fondly about a young lady who became an architect and another who is studying international law. “The Children can have very rewarding lives because the disease becomes a motivational challenge for them,” said Louise Montpetit.

Without the medical staff, the dedicated mothers, the dedicated children, and a sincere belief in providing these children with strength for life, Kids On The Move Camp would not still be running. We have been moved by the generosity and strength that this camp installs, and it’s an honour to play a role today to support this wonderful camp’s tomorrow.