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Sony Camp Showcases Beauty of Boys

When I had my third son I felt like I had somehow ‘disappointed society’. During all my pregnancies the vast majority of people would say “I hope you’re having a girl”, “I bet you want a girl”, “Little girls are so beautiful”, “Every mother needs a daughter” and on it went. There seems to be a perception in Australian society that boys are trouble; loud, disrespectful, naughty and emotionless. It would make me feel angry and sad.

After working at Toowoomba Grammar School for the past six months, I no longer feel that way. In fact, every day when I leave my job I feel like shouting “Boys are fantastic!” “Society, you have got it wrong!” I am constantly amazed by the boys at this School. They are respectful, polite, humble, grateful, helpful; these are encounters I have on a daily basis, but no words can express what it was like to see these young men at the Sony Foundation Children’s Holiday Camp for children with special needs.

The twelfth annual Sony Camp was held from September 22–24. The event is so highly anticipated for the Toowoomba Grammar students that the organisers are oversubscribed with the number of boys wishing to participate.

This year, forty-six Year 11 boys volunteered to spend two nights and three days as ‘companion carers’ to thirty-four children with special needs, giving their families some much-needed respite. It was overwhelming to watch these sixteen and seventeen-year-old boys doting on the campers.

There were young boys clinging to the necks of their companions in the water during the swimming activity at the TGS Aquatic Centre; they were struggling to move, they couldn’t talk but they were smiling and laughing and their ‘big, tough’ teenage carers were just as joyous. One boy lifted his companion up out of the water onto the side of the pool and ever-so gently strapped a float belt around his waist before carefully lifting him back into the water and then held his head up as the young child floated. Another quietly nursed his immobile companion at the end of the pool, away from the crowds. The little boy wrapped him arms around his carer’s neck and would lean forward to dip his face into the water, pop his head back up and then grin from ear to ear, the smile replicated on the teenager’s face. Another little boy became overwhelmed by all the commotion around him and started to get upset, his teenage carers calmly and quickly lifted him out of the pool and wrapped him in a towel, kneeling beside him and talking to him while holding him carefully to give him the reassurance he needed.

Out of the water there were plenty of activities to participate in; the boys were helping their companions with painting, playing ball, pushing billy-carts, running or just sitting quietly next to each other if that’s what was needed. All smiles, the TGS boys endured icy cold winds, dripping wet after their companions dunked them in the water on Show Day. They patiently walked beside the ponies that the children adored, went for a dizzying number of rides on the ‘cup and saucer’ or on the all-time-favourite buggy and they cheered encouragement for the campers swiping at the piñata.

It wasn’t all rosy however, there were also plenty of challenges; the boys had to help the children eat, bathe and take them to the toilet, they were climbed all over, dragged from here-to-there and there was the occasional tantrum that needed to be resolved. They were not trained carers, they only had a one-day induction about different scenarios they may have to deal with, but they took it all in their stride, and so graciously too.

This clearly was not a chore to these teenagers, they were genuinely happy to be there and to ensure their companions had a special, memorable weekend. The patience and empathy they showed were overwhelming. These were children that the boys had only known for a few hours, there was no family history or prior emotional connection, but they were taking care of them like they were their own. You just wouldn’t expect teenage boys to behave like these boys were; it was really wonderful to witness. There were so many moments that moved me to tears and made my heart feel like it would burst, it was a very emotional experience – and I was only there for a few hours each day as a ‘spectator’. I can only imagine the impact the Sony Foundation Children’s Camp must have on the young men who participate in it and the impression that they must leave on their companions and their families.

And so, once again I left my job thankful that I have three sons and confident that with the right guidance they can grow into compassionate, loving young men. You’re not missing out if you’re a mother of boys – you’re lucky to be one!

  • by Stacey Silver, TGS Marketing and Digital Media Officer and Year 7 TGS parent