A MUCH-LOVED charity is reflecting on a hugely successful 2023 that saw it celebrate its 50th birthday and receive the King’s Award for Voluntary Services.
Derby Kids’ Camp has been providing youngsters in the city and county – many who are living in poverty, have suffered a close bereavement or who are finding social interaction difficult – with a much-needed break in the countryside for half a century.
And over the summer, they hosted a tea party for children, volunteers and special guests during this year’s five weeks of summer camp.
Guests included former volunteers, business owners and fellow charities such as the YMCA Derbyshire, and patrons Peter and Amanda Ellse, of Derbyshire company Cosy, who presented plans to build a warehouse on site that will store the charity’s equipment and be made available to other charities and community groups.
Also celebrating was 14-year-old Lily, who has spent two weeks of her summer holidays volunteering at Kids’ Camp inspired by her parents.
Lily, who attends St John Houghton Catholic Academy in Ilkeston, said: “My parents have been volunteering for Derby Kids’ Camp for more than 30 years and I kind of grew up on camp.
“I’ve always been keen to volunteer and help make a difference to the lives of these young children. I like making them happy and find that it’s much better being on camp than being at home staring at my mobile phone all the while; I get to meet new people and make friends.”
Chairman Chris Edwards, who has been at the helm for 16 years, expressed his joy at the charity turning 50 – but emphasised the need for more people to help out in 2024 as demand for Derby Kids’ Camp grows.
“There is an increasing need to support local young children and over the past couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in these children needing a break,” he said.
“Since covid, we are seeing a rising number of children with social issues such as anxiety, and children with special educational needs, hence the reason we introduced a sensory tent last year that is much improved for 2023.
“We have also extended our reach since covid by offering breaks to children in the county and are seeing more young people joining us from areas such as Chesterfield, Belper and Alfreton.
“It is great to see Derby Kids’ Camp growing and we have had fantastic support over the years from volunteers who return year after year – often bringing their own children with them – and businesses. We are always, though, looking for more help to cope with the demand and welcome new volunteers.
“Fifty years is quite something and I’m looking forward to the next 50!”
Over the years, Derby Kids’ Camp has welcomed an estimated 16,000 children to camp where, throughout the week, they get to take part in craft activities, cave climbing and swimming. They stay in cosy tents that are equipped with comfortable camp beds, complete with bouncy mattresses, snuggly duvets and blankets, and the site has a fully-equipped kitchen with electricity and running water.
The charity relies 100 per cent on unpaid volunteer staff, who undertake a variety of roles from being a part of the welfare team, to helping with catering and medical, and fundraising throughout the year.
Two people volunteering at Derby Kids’ Camp this year are husband-and-wife Ben and Laila Riggott.
Laila is a former primary school teacher who now works with ethical Early Years equipment provider Cosy Direct while Ben is headteacher at Parkside Community School. The brother of former Derby County footballer Chris Riggott says that he never thought twice about giving up his time during the summer holidays to help at Derby Kids’ Camp.
He said: “Derby Kids’ Camp gives children the chance to be, well, children.
“They do incredible work. Laila and I heard of their achievements through patrons Peter and Amanda Ellse, who we have known for years. They encouraged us to volunteer and it really gives you that feel-good factor. For those wanting to work with children say, as teachers, it is also a great thing to have on your CV.”