Charitable Choices: Teya Vitko of Camp Oochigeas

Camp Oochigeas has been supporting children with cancer and their families since 1983 providing experiences that many young ones with the disease miss out on. Through private funding and a driven volunteer base, the organization has been providing communities and paediatric oncology centres across Ontario as well as at Ooch Muskoka – the only overnight camp in Canada able to provide IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions. The camp will be the charitable recipient of the recently announced Faculty of Sound emerging artist showcase that provides a platform for local artist growth. We recently spoke with Teya Vitko who is the Development Coordinator for Events at Camp Oochigeas about her work to learn more.

Camp Oochigeas

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Camp Oochigeas helps kids affected by childhood cancer explore enriching, and fun experiences with kids and Volunteers who understand.

Our programs allow kids who were forced to grow up too fast feel like kids again.

In 1983, an ambitious group of volunteers banded together to form a summer camp unlike any other in Canada. Exclusively serving children with cancer, Camp Oochigeas was privately funded, staffed entirely by volunteers, and completely free. Over 35 years later, Camp Ooch is still a privately funded, volunteer-driven charity that’s free for families.

Thanks to our generous partners and donors, we’ve broadened our programs, helping over 1,600 families and kids affected by childhood cancer every year. Ooch is now run by 50+ full-time staff, specially trained medical teams, and over 600 Volunteers. Our programs serve kids and their families in communities and paediatric oncology centres across Ontario, and at Ooch Muskoka – the only overnight camp in Canada able to provide IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions.

What problem does it aim to solve?

The joy and confidence gained from Camp Oochigeas is a crucial aspect of our Campers’ health and well-being. Ooch gives Campers the chance to meet other kids or Counsellors who’ve faced the same illnesses, had the same surgeries, or other Campers who know what it’s like to have a sick sibling. Camp restores a sense of normalcy, new found strength and hope.

When did you start/join it?

I joined as a volunteer in the Summer of 2015 and then as a staff member in March 2017. This was an easy decision for me!

What made you want to get involved?

I have a personal connection to Camp Ooch – my sister was a camper and is now a cancer survivor, practicing as a nurse on the oncology floor at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

What was the situation like when you started?

Camp Ooch has seen tremendous growth over the years. In 2015, we were primarily in the Toronto and GTA and Muskoka Region.

How has it changed since?

Now in 2019, we have reached our programs in 8 communities across the province and have expanded our overnight Camp in Muskoka to reach 50% more kids – we have built 2 new camper cabins, 2 volunteer cabins, flexible housing, a state of the art medical facility and a fully accessible dining hall. Now in the final phase of construction, our goal is to build new pathways and a new accessible camphitheatre, giving campers confidence and independence.

What more needs to be done?

Our programs change lives, but as of right now, _only 21% _of kids with cancer in Ontario can access an oncology camp.

We need your help so that the remaining 79% of families affected by childhood cancer in Ontario get to experience the Magic of Ooch.

With your support, we strive to:

· Bring the Overnight Camp experience to more kids from distant cities and regions, or to families new to the concept of Camp

· Embed Camp Oochigeas in Ontario health centres where kids with cancer get treatment

· Broaden our support to more parents and siblings, wrapping the whole family in an experience of caring and healing

How can our readers help?

All Ooch programming is provided to families free of charge – none of this would be possible without our Volunteers and generous community members like you.

At Camp Ooch, every donation goes a long way. 86% of every dollar we receive goes directly into our programs – from helping us train the best Volunteers and purchasing supplies, to expanding our program offerings across the province. We’re also committed to making sure all our activities and facilities are safe and inclusive. The remaining 14% goes toward organizational costs and fostering a community of educated, engaged, and committed donors. These costs are essential to help us reach our annual fundraising budget and stay accountable.

If you’d like to get involved as a Volunteer, check out our website for more information:

Do you have any events coming up?

The annual Sporting Life 10K is upcoming on Sunday, May 12 and is known as Canada’s easiest and fastest 10K’s. Whether you are a novice looking for an easy 10k course, or a seasoned veteran looking to set a PB or somebody looking to volunteer at the run, this event is for you.

Together our goal is to raise over $2 million for Camp Oochigeas so that kids with cancer can just be kids.

You can also check out our Event Listing online to find out about some more upcoming events.

Where can we follow you?

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter



About Joel Levy 2602 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography