Joyce Toms: Camp Breakaway
The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has enabled Camp Breakaway to facilitate a 4-day Camp for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The grant has provided Camp Breakaway funding to expand their resources allowing them to develop future programs and additional camps.
For the last 15 years, the 83-year-old has spent a significant amount of time as a companion carer for children and adults with disabilities and young carers at camps on the NSW Central Coast – even after she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“A friend who worked there suggested I go and do the training. Once I started working at the first camp, that was it,” Joyce says.
Camp Breakaway gives people with disabilities a much-valued break from their usual routine and it also provides respite to the parents and carers who dedicate their lives to looking after them.
“With some parents of children with disabilities, the mother sleeps tonight and the father sleeps another night. Everyone needs time out to recuperate so you can be there again when the children come home,” says Joyce.
Located on 25 acres, the purpose-built camp includes accommodation, meals, activities and entertainment against a backdrop of natural bushland.
Joyce has an admirable ability to look beyond a person’s physical self. “I don’t see their bodies and I don’t see anything wrong with them. You’re looking into their eyes and you see their soul.”
Joyce doesn’t like the limelight, but she is thrilled to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “I can’t believe that something like this has happened to me. It’s an honour,” she says. “I love it at Camp Breakaway. The people are beautiful and to think that they think I’m worthy, is wonderful.”