WHAT started as a way for Chrissy McGuinness to meet like-minded people and give back to her community has grown into a passion project that has earned her statewide recognition.
Mrs McGuinness, a nurse in John Hunter Hospital's J1 oncology and surgical ward for children, has for 14 years spent her annual leave volunteering with Camp Quality.
It provides one, four or five day escapes for children who have - or have been otherwise impacted by - cancer, and in some cases their families too.
"It makes my heart fill with pride, I absolutely love it," Mrs McGuinness said.
"Seeing these kids smile, leaving their parents for the first time, a lot of them don't have the freedom of being out and having fun, they could have been in a room for months in hospital.
"Here they're free, meeting other kids who have had cancer, trying new things for the first time and can just smile and laugh and giggle. They're the bravest little humans ever."
Mrs McGuinness has been recognised this week - National Volunteer Week - with Camp Quality's Dick Gillard Award, which acknowledges a volunteer who has gone above and beyond to dedicate time and energy to the cause.
"I didn't expect it, because it's not why I do it, to be recognised," she said.
"I was in shock and a bit of denial. I still don't believe I deserve it - if it was not for all of us we would not have these kids having so much fun. I'm truly appreciative and quite humbled."
Mrs McGuinness said she signed up to Camp Quality after finding herself single and with two children, aged eight and five, who "had a better social life than I did".
"I needed to find something for me, to make new friends with like-minded people," she said. "It was the best thing I ever did."
She takes around three to four weeks leave each year to attend the camps as a nurse and starts preparing two months out from each event.
"I find out if the kids are still on treatment - some are on oral chemotherapy or might have diabetes or allergies because of their chemotherapy," she said.
"I make sure we're all over everything. We have our own hospital set up and a first aid room with beds if we need them. When we're not doing that we're being a rover, helping out where we can."
Mrs McGuinness has recruited colleagues and her husband Darren to donate their time too.
The couple's first date was at a Camp Quality volunteers event and "from then he was hooked".
She said the organisation was always looking for new helpers.
"I might not see people for most of the year until we meet up at camp, but we pick up where we left off. It's nice to be around like minded people who are all there for the same reason. It's a magical place to be."
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