Taylor and Dominique have wrapped up their recreation therapy placements with WCK, and we miss them already. In this blog, they share what they will take forward from the experience into their careers. As it turns out, learning from kids is the most important thing.
How did you feel coming into WCK?
Dominique: I had a small peek into WCK as a volunteer before. I knew Kelsey from that time, which was great because I knew her personality and work style. All of that helped me to navigate the waters of starting a new placement. It felt easy and natural to become a part of everything.
Taylor: For me, I didn’t know what to expect at all! It happened quickly because I had a last-minute change of placement. I remember feeling both excited and nervous, coming into a new place.
What did you do on your placement?
Taylor: We did a bit of everything! Managing volunteers, designing resources, planning programs, supervising at Spring Break City Camp, running Hangouts…we even got to run the food programs for a week when Alice was on holiday.
Dominique: We did a lot of evaluation and documentation, which we can't undervalue. In therapeutic recreation (TR), we do a lot of that. It’s part of our process to give purposeful interventions. Taking our learning from Spring Break, we determined how we can better support volunteers. We then got to create documents and visuals that will help them succeed in the next City Camp.
What did you learn about working in this space?
Dominique: You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself so that you’re confident in your ability to take care of others. I saw that most at Spring Break. I knew a lot of people needed my help, but at the same time, I needed other people’s help. It’s a mutual thing, so being taken care of helps the whole team do what we came here to do. Take those breaks throughout the day!
Taylor: The biggest thing I learned is the need for ongoing support. Whether a child passes away or is in remission, that doesn’t mean the support needs to stop. There are long-lasting effects. That’s something I really value about WCK – you continue to offer programs at any time.
It’s important that kids and families can connect with others at all different stages of their own journey. I got to see for myself how safe an environment WCK is for kids to connect with each other without tiptoeing around the concept of cancer.
How did you learn not to tiptoe around cancer?
Dominique: I learned from the kids and families that, when it comes to talking about childhood cancer and blood disorders, I don’t have to worry so much about offending. I can be a little more free-flowing.
I understand some of the ways to talk about it, and that WCK has a laid back, family-led approach to it. At first, I kept worrying about saying the wrong thing. I was not trusting that our families would be able to handle what I was talking about.
Taylor: At Spring Break, the kids would say things like, “Wait, you work here? So, do you have cancer?” “I don’t have cancer either, but my sister has cancer.” It’s constantly in their world, so the idea of talking to somebody else about it is just normal to them.
It’s nice they can talk about it and then also be like, “So, when’s lunch?” One kid literally said to me, “So you know I had cancer when I was little? I felt really sick when I took this medicine for it…when’s lunch?”
What should others know about wck?
Dominique: How many people from all walks of life contribute to this organization. So many different life experiences come together for the same goal. I knew we were volunteer-driven, but I had no idea of the extent. To see them at work in person…their eyes just light up when they get to do something to help others.
Taylor: It’s not just for kids on active treatment. WCK is here to support families at any point in their journey. That includes kids in remission, bereaved families, and families who are in the hospital or at home.
How has Kelsey prepared you for a rec therapy career?
Dominique: She helped me to learn how to set boundaries while also being collaborative. If you take on a task, that doesn’t mean you need to grind yourself to the bone working on it. If you hit a wall, it’s ok to stop, take a break, and ask for help. That’s what a team is for.
Maybe we should learn from the kids and get more used to saying, “This week has been a real doozy…when’s lunch?” Kelsey also helped me to be proud of what I’ve done and to say, “I did what I could with what I had.” She reminded me to be like the kids and always find the fun.
Taylor: Kelsey helped me with setting boundaries for sure. I’ve been able to say “I’m getting overwhelmed, and I need to take a break so that I can get back on track.” At the beginning, Kels had us write down what it looks like when we’re overwhelmed and I found that so valuable. People will show it in different ways, so this is a tool I want to use to support others.
She also asked, “What do you need when you are overwhelmed?” That question removed the stigma from needing those pauses.
What did you learn from the kids?
Dominique: Take a chill pill. Be free flowing. It’ll be okay! At camp, when plans changed, they would be okay with it and find fun in the tiniest, smallest thing. So much of the fun came from toilet paper tubes! Simple can be sustainable, enjoyable, and sweet.
Taylor: That it's totally okay to have no idea what you’re doing! They would come up to me and be like, “Tyler! Teeler! You’re gonna get a pie in the face!” – and I would just have to go with it.
Dominique: I learned to value free play so much more. The kids tend to know what they want to do and how to express themselves. Free play was when I really saw them shine and get into flow.
In fact, all my most important learning has come from the kids – they showed me how to find the fun, talk about cancer without fear, go with the flow, and prioritize lunch!
What's next for you?
Dominique: I plan to use my experiences of leading Spring Break to run a summer camp for kids! I want to keep working with kids. Throughout my TR experience, the most rewarding thing has been working with kids. I also want to show other people the value of TR. I want to advocate for the importance of it, spread that knowledge, and promote funding to develop the profession.
Taylor: I’m going back to work at the farm for the summer and I’ll apply for some jobs. In the future, I would love to work in forensics.
What is your favourite memory?
Taylor: One day at City Camp, we did some breathing exercises and we taught one about finger breathing. Later on, Kels came outside when the kids were playing soccer. She said, “Okay, it’s time for a breathing break.” One of the kids ran up to her and showed her the finger breathing he had learned. It was really cool, because it obviously made an impact.
Dominique: Zach losing his tooth while playing at City Camp was a great moment. He was so proud. He ran up to me with blood on his hands and face and said, “I just lost a tooth!” He wasn’t scared. He knew what he could handle.