The day was hazy, but nothing was going to dampen the spirits of the 20 families of our Star PALS patients, who had been waiting excitedly to attend the Star PALS Family camp. Our Star PALS families were all looking forward to this two day – one night family staycation, which would not have been possible for many of them. With a critically ill child in the family, it was too difficult to arrange for a family holiday.
After registration at the hotel, Star PALS’ parents were encouraged to leave their child with our staff and ‘medi-minders’ who are our volunteers, at the hotel. Parents and siblings were then ushered to a waiting bus to take them to Jurong Lake Gardens, just a ten minute ride away, for a few hours of adventure and fun. Some parents were reluctant to leave their child, while others gamely took up our offer.
At the function room in Jurong Lake Gardens, it was a hive of activity. The ambience was palpable, replete with Spiderman and Wonder Woman. Our families were treated to an amazing race and a laser tag game. Everyone had great fun shooting laser beams and hiding behind tents.
After lunch, children participated in a colouring competition and their ages ranged from three to thirty! Everyone wanted to colour their favourite ballerinas, ice-creams, robots and dragons – and there were prizes to be won. Everyone did such a wonderful job!
Families were then entertained with a family bonding session. Children joined their parents to ‘make a pizza’. Using the motions of kneading the dough, cutting the ingredients and slicing the pizza, kids massaged their parents’ backs and then reversed roles, when the parents massaged their children’s backs. There was much giggling and fun and we could see everyone let their hair down.
It was time to pack up and head back to the hotel.
In the meantime at the hotel, the ballroom was transformed into a sensory room. Star PALS patients were treated to a music and movement experience. They were allowed ‘messy and sensory’ play. “Melting goo” was created using cornstarch, water and food colouring and patients were guided to hand-stir the mixture to enhance their sense of touch and sight. Our patients’ little hands were plunged into boxes of colourful water beads, so that they could feel the soft, jelly-like and cool texture. There was sand and snow play too. The patients thoroughly enjoyed the sensations of story massage, which was much like the “make a pizza” activity, but massage oils and lotions were used on the patients.
There was also a sensory room, filled with aromas coming from diffusers, glow in the dark stars and soft music for patients who preferred peace and quiet. After lunch, all the children were tired out and had a good rest on the many beanies and air mattresses lying around.
Parents started streaming back and many rushed to the ballroom in search of their children. “Mana anak ku?” or “Where’s my baby?” asked an anxious parent. Every parent was so pleased to be reunited with their child, even though it was only about five hours. It was a heartwarming sight.
Everyone checked into their rooms to wash up and to get ready for the evening’s gala dinner.
At about 5pm, the ballroom was transformed into a pre-dinner activity area, with balloon sculpting, family photo booth and the mobile blind masseurs from the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, ready to soothe aching muscles. The masseurs were a hit with the families. Pikachu and Rilakkuma visited as well and the kids had loads of fun with the mascots.
Dinner was served at 7pm. Everyone enjoyed the games, the dance item by Jitterbugs Swingapore and the lucky draws. The evening drew to a close and after announcing the emergency contact number for all to note for the evening, families went back to their rooms for a well-earned rest.
Throughout the day, what really kept things going were our staff and volunteers, behind the scenes. At the hotel, nurses from HCA, Assisi Hospice, KKH, KTPH, NUH had volunteered their time to mind the patients, ensuring that they were properly fed, had their oxygen concentrators properly fitted and were kept warm. They lovingly played, cuddled, carried and lulled our patients to sleep. Two volunteers from the Special Schools led the ‘messy and sensory’ play. Other volunteer medi-minders wheeled the other patients around and kept them occupied with stories and interesting activities. Even at dinner time, the medi-minders continued to care for the patients, while parents and siblings enjoyed the gala dinner. The balloon sculptors and photo booth were also manned by volunteers.
At Jurong Lake Gardens, Spiderman from Deutsche Bank and Wonder Woman, our incoming President, took photos with families. We had volunteers from PSA, enabling the colouring competition. Our photographers, drivers for our patients and families, game masters are all volunteers.
Three BIG cheers for all our volunteers, without whom the Star PALS family camp would not have been so successful. Credit also goes to all our staff who sacrificed their entire weekend to make a family staycation possible for our Star PALS families. And to all our families, thank you for joining us. One Dad told me ‘Thank you for making this happen for us. I know it is hard work for all of you. But if you didn’t plan this, we will never ever get a chance like this to stay in a hotel with the entire family!’
It is an occasion like this that makes me feel proud to be part of HCA Hospice !
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