The Jewish Chronicle featured this week an article about eight-year-old Ruth Carpenter and her family, who brought the fun of the fair to their Norwich home in a fundraising thank you for the support of Camp Simcha.
Just after Rosh Hashanah in 2015, Ruth was found to have Wilms Tumour, a type of kidney cancer. A year on, as Ruth was continuing her treatment, her father Nick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Camp Simcha came into the Carpenters’ life after Ruth was referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for chemotherapy and an operation to remove her kidney.
“We had been told Ruth faced a year of chemotherapy, with an intense regime initially,” recalled her mother Deborah.
“Our Camp Simcha family liaison officer Natalie managed to find a wonderful volunteer to be a ‘big sister’ for Ruth, coming over to spend time with her and do fun activities when we were in Norwich.
“While we couldn’t always make it to Camp Simcha parties or trips, Natalie brought the fun to us, arranging outings and treats for the children and occasional massages for us to provide a bit of respite.
“Surprise packages would turn up, balloons were delivered when Ruth had got through particularly difficult chemotherapy. Little things made a big difference.
“When we went on our first Camp Simcha family retreat, Nick felt very emotional watching [son] Gabriel running around with a huge smile on his face. We hadn’t seen that smile in months.
“Most importantly, Natalie was always there — calling after important appointments, responding immediately if I sent her a text. It was like she had some sort of radar for knowing when I needed help.”
In the summer after Ruth’s diagnosis, Mr Carpenter started feeling unwell. Tests revealed he had a tumour requiring a major operation, with a 12-month recovery period.
“When Nick came home after his surgery, it was the December school holidays,” Mrs Carpenter continued. “The children were all at home and Nick needed a lot of care.
“Natalie rang to say she had organised holiday activities for the children — an entertainer to come in, a big box of crafts.
“I didn’t have the capacity to think of how I was going to brighten the holidays for them but she had pre-empted what I needed.
“The Norwich Hebrew Congregation community were very supportive as well, providing meals during this difficult time.”
Ruth has finished her treatment and is scanned every three months. Her father has reached the year post-surgery mark — and will also be having regular scans.
On Sunday, the family raised more than £700 from the indoor fair, including old-fashioned games and tea and cake stalls.
“We really wanted to do something to give back for all the incredible support we got,” Mrs Carpenter said. “Even though we are based in Norwich, Camp Simcha’s long arms reached us as they constantly found different ways to help us during a very difficult time.
“We have to adjust to a new normality, which isn’t easy, but the fair was a fun way to start that process.”