Recently, eight young boys connected with the Kyabram Integrated Family Service were selected to participate in a four day camp held at Cottage by the Sea. Getting on the road early Monday morning to travel over 200km south of Kyabram to a Melbourne service station where two of our friendly staff were awaiting with smiles and lunch for the hungry and excited boys, the adventure had just begun. With another long bus ride further on to Cottage upon our minibus, they finally arrived in Queenscliff by the late afternoon. It didn’t take long for the boys to settle into our smaller guest suited accommodation, known as Riptide Cottage, as they all agreed it already felt like a home away from home and loved finding the little surprise beanies, booties, scarves, teddies, blankets and beanies welcoming them upon their beds.

As the children were amongst a mix of different ages, year levels and schools, with only a few knowing each other within the group, our camp leaders began the day with some ‘get-to-know-you games,’ before finally getting them outdoors to experience the seaside for the first time in their lives.

As Kyabram is located within the Goulburn Valley (a rich irrigation district), the closest thing these children have to the beach is that of sand banks along the local dams and rivers, as well as their local swimming pool. Not only seeing the ocean but having the opportunity to play around on the sand and swim amongst sets of waves all week truly was an incredible and rare experience for them all. Getting used to the taste of salt water and wearing a wetsuit however is a story we might save for another day.

On their last full day of camp, one of the boys was lucky enough to celebrate his very special 11th birthday at the Cottage. With a morning awakening to a bag full of presents, to spending the day boogie-boarding at Ocean Grove Beach with his new best friends, the young boy claimed it was “the best birthday I’ve ever had!” And of course it wouldn’t be a real birthday celebration without all the Cottage Staff singing happy birthday to him as he blew out the candles upon his freshly baked chocolate cake, complete with whipped cream filling and strawberries on-top of course!