National Child Day: The power of play and recreation

"On December 20, 2015 at the age of 10, Janelle was diagnosed with High Risk Stage 3 Favourable LOH+ Wilms Tumour - a form of kidney cancer. She has been through surgery, 12 rounds of radiation, and 33 weeks (11 cycles) of chemotherapy.” – Liane Haviland, Janelle’s mother


Like many kids her age, Janelle attends a camp over the summer. However, during the summer of 2016, Janelle was undergoing treatment for her cancer, which made it impossible for her to attend the Winnipeg Personnel Support Programs (PSP) sports camp, something she was looking forward to.

Studies have shown that recreation, sports and play are integral to building resilience in children, and that by participating in activities, they are able to develop core characteristics that will help overcome challenges.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017; with her treatment complete, Janelle was able to attend camp. However, there were some concerns as her treatment had left her weak. The PSP recreation staff encouraged Janelle’s parents to send her to camp, promising they would take good care of her.

That promise turned out to be the best thing for her. The counsellors encouraged her and pushed her a little more every day. They found appropriate ways for her to participate in all the activities, ensured she had time to rest when needed, and took special care to keep her well hydrated.

By the end of the summer, Janelle’s stamina and energy levels had greatly improved, so much so that even her oncologist was impressed. She is now going on two years in remission.

“The fact that PSP Rec staff encouraged us to send her and were willing to go above and beyond to work with her is huge. We are very thankful for them and the help they provided. They are now encouraging our daughter to become a volunteer for camp in 2020 when she is 14 and too old to attend. She can’t wait,” said Liane Haviland, Janelle’s mother.

Every year on November 20, National Child Day is recognized across the globe, giving children the opportunity to have a voice, be protected from harm, and be provided with their basic needs to reach their full potential, including participation in cultural, artistic and recreational activities.

“Janelle’s story is one of many we hear,” says Ryan Cane, PSP Senior Manager of Recreation Program and Community Services. “Across the country, at all of our bases and wings, children from military families are building their resiliency when they play in our programs and work with our specially trained coaches and instructors.”

To celebrate National Child Day and to highlight the integral role that PSP activities play in the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of children from military families, PSP will be hosting creative workshops for children at bases and wings on Saturday, November 17, 2018. The art the children will create will be on display at the National War Museum on November 28, 2018.

For more information and to register, visit the CAF Connection website.

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