Thank you to the Hamodia, Jewish Weekly and Jewish Tribune for featuring Suri’s story.

A group of youngsters with serious illnesses enjoyed a weekend away with Camp Simcha, packed with fun and a rare taste of the independence their conditions often prohibit.

Ranging in age from 6-18, they spent a wonderful few days enjoying activities from archery and bowling to rock climbing and a fire and light show.

With all their care needs catered for and medical staff on site, their parents could enjoy some vital respite knowing that their children were having a great time alongside Camp Simcha staff and the charity’s Big Brother and Big Sister volunteers.

Among the volunteers this time was Suri Friesel.

No stranger to retreat – Suri, now 18, attended many when she was a child supported by Camp Simcha, but this was her first as a volunteer.

Suri and her family came to Camp Simcha after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2017 –  on her 13th birthday.

“Camp Simcha stepped in and supported us in so many ways, including a volunteer for me and for my sibling,” says Suri, from North London.

“I went to lots of retreats which were amazing, as well as Camp USA. I wanted to be a volunteer even while I was being supported by Camp Simcha and having treatment. I didn’t want to always get, I wanted to give as well.”

No longer needing Camp Simcha’s support, that opportunity finally came when Suri turned 18 and became a volunteer for the charity, which provides practical, emotional and therapeutic support to families with seriously ill children.

Suri, who now works part-time as a phlebotomist and also teaches, says: “I now support the sibling of a child who is ill, and also went to my first retreat as a volunteer.

“I had always enjoyed retreat as a child. It was somewhere I felt able to be myself and where I could take part in all the activities even when I was in a wheelchair.

“But it felt really good to be there as a volunteer and have that feeling that I had come out the other side. I also hope that it was encouraging for the children who are on retreat now.”

Camp Simcha Head of Services Daniel Gillis: “Children’s retreat is always a wonderful few days – an opportunity for the young people we support to have some independence and fun, while making connections with others who understand their daily challenges. At the same time it provides valuable respite for their parents.

“Having Suri on retreat was very special for us, both as staff seeing her come full circle and for the children we support. We are so happy to have her on the volunteer team.”