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Employee Voices: BMO Volunteer Day at Camp Ooch

June 25, 2019 | Giving and sponsorships

On June 10, I spent BMO Volunteer Day with 100 colleagues at Camp Ooch in Muskoka. Camp Ooch is a privately funded, volunteer-driven charity that helps over 1,600 kids affected by cancer every year and their families – at no cost.

What’s different about Camp Ooch is its state-of-the-art medical facilities right in the middle of a camp setting, situated on beautiful Lake Donner near the town of Rosseau. It’s a place where no matter what stage of cancer, from newly diagnosed to in remission, kids can get away and enjoy the camp experience. It’s the only overnight camp in Canada able to provide IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions, so kids can receive chemotherapy in the morning, and be right back out enjoying activities in the afternoon.

Our day at Ooch started with a fun welcome from the staff (the same ‘welcome’ experience as the campers!), followed by a tour of the main lodge and medical building. We also got to check out the new building that BMO’s recent donation went towards: a cabin for oncologists and their families to stay in, as nurses and oncologists are on site at all times. After a true camp lunch, it was time to help get the camp ready for campers. My job? Getting the waterfront set up – taking out the kayaks from the shed, cleaning up the shed, getting the beach area ready and setting up picnic tables.

In short, my day at Camp Ooch was amazing. It was so apparent how passionate everyone from Camp Ooch was about creating the best experience possible for the kids, from the largest detail down to the smallest. From having all beds in the cabins accessible for campers no matter what assistance they may need, a specially designed main lodge to assist children with brain tumors, fully accessible bathrooms and handwashing stations, and high ropes that support wheelchairs – to name just a few of the ways they removed barriers so the kids could focus on having fun!

I chose this volunteer day project because I think it’s so important to get away, have a break from day-to-do life and have fun – something that Camp Ooch makes possible for children and their families who are going through or have gone through a tough time. I loved hearing the touching stories about the campers and the volunteers who make the experience possible, and I’m happy it was a BMO Volunteer Day project this year!

Jillian Morello is a Corporate Communications Manager for BMO’s People, Brand and Culture portfolio. She is based in Toronto.

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