ON THE GROUND: Over The Wall Gang Camp

Scheme: An Easter camp for children with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Funding: £270,000 from the Community Fund, charitable trusts including Lloyds TSB Foundation and a individual donations. Each camp costs £50,000 to run

Objectives: To create an environment of fun, friendship and fulfilment

"Me and my sister took the train down to Dorset with some people from Liverpool to go to the Over the Wall Gang Camp and we had a brilliant time together, doing lots of activities and songs. It was such good fun."

This appraisal comes from a 13 year old, one of 50 children at the charity's first Easter camp, which ran this month at Bryanston School in Dorset.

Fliss Buckles, the voluntary drama activity leader, said there was an amazing atmosphere and team spirit at the camp. "The emphasis is on fun, friendship and fulfilment," she said. "It was a week of non-stop games, laughter and entertainment. Although I'm utterly exhausted, I've never enjoyed myself so much."

She said the camp's supportive, familial atmosphere encouraged people to do things they wouldn't normally do, including kayaking, climbing, water fights and "eating pudding without your hands".

The charity was started in 1999 and is based in Alton, Hampshire. It has an American counterpart called the Hole in the Wall Gang, founded by the film star Paul Newman. There are only three full-time staff members and a fledgling community fundraising group of about 20 people.

Three camps have run during each of the past three summers and there are plans for weekend get-togethers. According to Jan Nicholas, chief executive, the success of the camps "can be seen on the faces and in the laughter of the children, and by the fact that they don't want to leave at the end of the week."

Children who take part are referred by doctors at affiliated hospitals throughout the UK. They must be in need of the camp's benefits and be physically able to go. The charity tries to pick children from the same family to give parents a break and siblings time together in a different environment.

Campers are encouraged to take part in reunions, and some of them make lasting friendships, receiving support from people they can really empathise with.

"Everyone who went that time and other times before know they are not alone," said the 13-year-old participant. "There are lots of other people in the same boat. If anyone gets the chance to go, I would say don't hesitate, you won't regret it. I thought I would before I went, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made."

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