Camp Simcha held its largest ever residential family retreat, delivering community, respite and joy to families with seriously ill children.

Nearly 180 family members from London, Manchester and Gateshead joined Camp Simcha staff, Big Brother and Big Sister volunteers, carers and a medical team for the four-day retreat in Kenilworth.

With a wonderland theme throughout the four days, there were science and space activities, boys and girls water park outings, bowling, an escape room, laser tag, arts and crafts, dinner for two for parents – and after Shabbat, a high energy concert.

One father, who was attending his first Camp Simcha retreat, said afterwards: “In the past two and a half years of facing challenges, this weekend marked the first time I’ve cried. I rarely shed tears, regardless of the situation. However, during this Shabbat, I was overwhelmed with emotions.

“We initially thought Camp Simcha provided us with a family liaison officer (FLO) for my wife to talk to and enjoyable activities for the children. This Shabbat made us realise that we gained a new FAMILY, the closest we’ve ever had. We connected with other parents who understood us, allowing us to share our experiences. It wasn’t just me; my wife returned home transformed. On Shabbat, volunteers cared for our children as if they were part of our own family, and the children opened up like never before.”

Camp Simcha volunteer Benji Shebson, who has attended many retreats said the atmosphere at this one was incredible.

“In a new bigger location, it was amazing to host more families than ever on this special Shabbos.

“It was a privilege for me as a volunteer, to spend time with the families suffering from childhood illness and help create memories that I hope will have an impact during what is an incredibly difficult experience.”