Every year we invite kids from a new region to be part of our REEF Program and every year it is an exciting moment when we get to meet the kids for the first time – after all, this is their first camp of what could be a 7-year journey with Cottage by the Sea! This year’s new group are from the Grovedale area in Geelong and we couldn’t wait to dive in.

Shelley, Mel, Sean and B picked the kids up from their schools on Friday afternoon in anticipations for the camp that would run till Sunday afternoon. Understandably the Cottage busses were a mixture of excitement and nervousness as we headed back to Queenscliff. The kids had been told a little of what to expect but it was all set to be a whole new experience for them. 

When they arrived at the Cottage they were treated to a tour before heading to the art room to talk about the opportunities available to them in the REEF program and the expectations that come with participating in the program. The prospect of being awarded scholarships to follow your dreams, being able to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and learning to snowboard had the kids very exciting about what the future might hold.

The next morning, we were greeted to some unruly weather, forcing us to change our plans for a morning swim at the beach. Luckily, with the help of our amazing donors, we were able to go for a visit to the Ocean Grove pool where we all enjoyed having a splash in the water and a few fun games. As the weather looked like it wasn’t going to improve for the rest of the day, we decided to put on our raincoats, brave the weather and head out for a walk around the Queenscliff Marina. The kids got to experience the incredible view from the top of the 360Q and learn about the Pilot Boats that were docked in the Marina.

With the weather clearing in the afternoon, we headed out for a nature walk where Shelley challenge the kids to explore their ‘five senses’. This involved stopping and taking in all around us – the smell of the salt air, the feel of the sand between your toes, the sight of the water moving in open ocean and listening to the the waves crash on shore - something simple that we don’t often forget to stop and do. That night we were treated to B’s delicious homemade carbonara for dinner, which the kids all thought was the best.

Sunday came around before we knew it, but we still had one more activity up our sleeves for the kids – surfing! Down to Ocean Grove Main Beach we headed with wetsuits in hand and surfboards in tow. The conditions weren’t desirable but all of the kids had the opportunity to feel the freedom of standing on a surfboard.

Alas, it was finally time to head home. Before getting back on the Cottage busses, we sat in a circle on the basketball court for a final chat about how we felt about the camp, what we achieved and what we were looking forward too.

We can’t wait to continue working with this great group of kids over the coming years. Thanks to all of them for making it such a fantastic weekend!