Tackers 2016

Last minute decisions aren’t me, I like to plan, prepare, overthink and worry, before doing. So having the chance to go to TACKERS presented to me 40 hours before I needed to be there was somewhat of a surprise, but a life changing one at that. I went from London — Sussex — Gatwick all under the instruction of “Just be at Geneva no later than 4pm on Saturday” — trust is a wonderful thing..

Before I get into it, for those of you who don’t know about TACKERS, it is an international ski camp for kids who have had a transplant; TACKERS translates to Transplant Adventure Camps for Kids. The idea was launched after the founder Liz Schick had a transplant herself and wanted to raise awareness off the back of her own experiences.

Following a bit of a journey, I got to the chalet with 40 kids from 15 countries across the globe, all alive with stories of their similar scars, same transplants and similar medication — for many this was the first time they’d ever met someone who have been through the similar things, even at such a young age. To sit back and watch as all this unfolded was enjoyed briefly before we got everyone booked in, their medications collected and their rooms assigned.

As morning broke for the first morning, I got to watch the sun create the most beautiful view — what a way to begin a week of camp. Quick team meeting with the other volunteers and it was up to the ski shop to get everyone kitted out! After a morning of bootfitting, it’s safe to say that I have a newfound respect for both the people who work in ski rental, but also my parents for being so patient with me when I was doing the same thing — “I want those boots because they look the best” and the typical over-exaggeration of how good you are “I have skied twice so top of the range skis will do me well, cranked right up to expert please” — sure thing.

Every afternoon and evening, the kids are offered the chance to do an activity other than being on the mountain skiing. One of the many highlights of the week was being able to take my own small group off to ski with me for the last hour of the day. I got a chance to speak with one of the kids who had had multiple transplants and successfully beaten off cancer. He was one of the most interesting people I have ever met, and as I sat and listened, he shared his stories on this slow lift moving me with each step of his story. He taught me a key lesson:

“Whatever happens, as long as you live to see another day, you have no excuse not to go and seize it.”

Listening to him speak was so amazing. For someone of his age to be so down to earth, yet so positive following such experiences was simply amazing! His words will stay with me forever and have guided me to make these changes to my own life:

  1. Positivity is key, by always looking for the solutions, instead of the problem in situations — I find that greater achievements can be seen and challenges can be overcome far quicker.
  2. Listening is just as important as talking. By giving others the chance to speak, you allow them to express themselves in a way you may not have seen before.
  3. Do more! By taking risks and going outside your comfort zone, you experience more, see more but best of all learn and develop!

As well as getting to listen to and learn from others during the week, I also got the chance to do some skiing myself. From helping kids to learn to use a button lift, to the classic Pizza and Chips technique (Cheers Viamonde for this tip). To watch such a diverse group of individuals come together and bond in such a short amount of time was fascinating to watch, and it reassured me that ultimately, whenever life gets tough and throws you a curveball, you can get past it, you can move forward but most of all, you can learn and develop from it.

As I finished off the week and prepared to leave Anzere, I was saying bye to all the kids at the Chamossaire, one of the kids who I had spent a lot of time with ran out and gave me a big hug and thanked me for everything that I’d done for him that week. That for me was the most special moment of the entire week, and for me exactly what TACKERS is all about — making a difference to someone’s life.

On the train back to Geneva late at night, with a night on the floor of Geneva Airport ahead of me, I began reflecting about just how lucky I am to have the things that I do in life, but equally how lucky I am to have gotten the chance to go and spend the week with such an amazing group of people. To give is to love.

Thank you TACKERS — See you in 2017.