It was party time at Camp Simcha with more than 400 family members from London and Manchester attending parties this month, as well as a reunion event which saw some 300 alumni coming together.

The north of England event took place at Playworld Huddersfield, while JFS in North London was the site of the other two parties – which included inflatables, a sensory room, mini golf, circus skills, and art and graffiti workshops.

The alumni party saw families and volunteers from the last 27 years reuniting including a group of original families who were thrilled to be back together again.

Among the group was Sam Ryan, who was supported after being diagnosed with leukaemia, aged three and suffering a relapse when he was six. He was then diagnosed with a brain tumour as a teenager.

Sam said: “I don’t know if I would have had that drive and determination to live if I didn’t have Camp Simcha to support me.”  He also threw himself into his woodwork – a hobby that took hold when he went to Camp USA with Camp Simcha – and which has turned into a business, restoring and making furniture, with Sam even appearing as a regular on Channel 4’s Mend it for Money.

“My Camp Simcha journey in America in the wood workshop, clearly made me fall in love with the craft of woodworking from day one, which has since developed into my school studies, university degrees and now a career in furniture making for 10 years. I am very grateful for everything Camp Simcha has given me and supported me throughout my life, as my present has clearly developed from it.”

Speaking after the reunion, Sam said: “It really put a smile on my face when someone suggested getting a photo of ‘the originals’ – a short moment of importance that was lovely and brought back all the memories in that one group photo.”

Camp Simcha Alumni Officer Tali Ross explained the reunion had originally been planned to mark the charity’s 25th anniversary but had to be cancelled due to Covid.

“It was very special to see families reconnecting with each other and with their former volunteers, as well as to see volunteers coming back with their own families.

“The buzz in the room was palpable and we are thrilled to be back in touch with so many alumni, who will always be part of the Camp Simcha family.”