The first time Vera Entwistle spoke to a hospital in 1983 about her idea to take kids facing cancer on camp, she was told to find something else to do with her time.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone told me it wouldn’t work, I’d have been able to fund the camp!” says Vera with a laugh.
Luckily for the hundreds of thousands of kids impacted by cancer that Camp Quality would go on to support over the next four decades, Vera was not deterred. After hearing how going camping had made one little girl with terminal cancer laugh again, Vera vowed she would give that experience to other diagnosed children.
At the next hospital Vera visited her idea was applauded. She was taken to the children’s oncology ward to hear the kids’ ideas for what they wanted to do on camp.
“The thing that impressed me was they asked for simple things; paddling a canoe or shooting a bow and arrow. I thought, ‘Yes, that’s easy, we can do that,’” recalls Vera.
Camp Quality has not looked back since.
In her 17 years at the helm, Vera, with the unflinching support of husband Brian, created Kids’ Camps, Family Camps and the school Cancer Education Program. She also helped communities launch their own versions of Camp Quality, including overseas in Ireland, India and New Zealand. An indomitable leader, Vera raised funds and grew a dedicated crew of volunteers. And, despite losing 37 of the 38 children from that first camp, Vera never wavered from her vision of improving the ‘quality’ of the lives of kids growing up with cancer, even though she couldn’t change the ‘quantity’.