Fiona Lynch is tough. You don’t last for twenty-two years as a frontline mental health care worker without having incredible strength and resilience. And tough love is what she’s giving her only child, Cooper, when I talk to her on the phone, three days into his second NSW Police Legacy Adventure Camp.
“I said to him, ‘You’re on an island! I’m not coming to get you, I’m not paddling the boat out, and I’ll see you on Wednesday!’”
But let’s backtrack a little. 2020 was a bad year. We all know that. For Fiona and Cooper, it was tougher than for most, as it started with the tragic death of Sergeant Ryan Lynch, partner and father.
Because of Covid lockdowns, the two of them were not able to use our physical support services, but Leisa (our Community Support Manager) still reached out as much as she was able.
“Leisa was very supportive and tried to involve us as much as she could,” says Fiona. Their first big Legacy adventure was the Kids’ Christmas Party at The Aquarium/Madam Tussauds at the end of 2020. What with one pandemic thing and another, however, Cooper didn’t get to his first camp until the middle of 2022.
“So obviously the first camp went well if he’s gone back for a second?” I ask blithely. She pauses. Perfect timing. “No!” she says, and laughs.
She then details the tearful late-night calls, and the way she had to almost counsel him through those first days outside of his routine, surrounded by new people and new ways of being. He told her after he got back that he’d never, ever do that again. But, as is usually the way, mum knew best.
When Ryan first died, Fiona set Cooper up at the National Centre for Childhood Bereavement, with assistance from Police Legacy. As a mental health professional, she knew just how important it was for him start processing his grief. And she also knew how vital it was for him to have friends who’d been through something similar. It’s why she was so adamant to have him continue going to camp.
“I want him to make friends with kids that have gone through what he’s gone through, because unless you’ve been through it, you really don’t know what it’s all about,” she says. “I think he had one kid at school that had lost a parent. Other than that, he hadn’t really met anyone in the same boat.”
Of course, this same logic applies to Fiona too. Tough as she is, she can’t do it all. And this is something that she is starting to appreciate more and more about what NSWPL can offer her. She connected with a couple of other Legatees around her area, with kids of similar ages. They’ve got a trip away together planned in a few months, travelling in their respective camper and caravan. She’s got a “FIFO trip” planned for the Blue Ribbon Ball at the end of March, where she’s excited to have a chance to dress up and hang out with some of her new Legatee friends.
And she’s planning on further breaks in the coming years, now that Cooper is settling into the routines of camp. It’s one of Police Legacy’s dirty secrets about camp (it’s really not a secret). Adventure camps are a blast for the kids, but they’re also a chance for parents – particularly single parents – to recover a little from the demands of being the one person responsible for everything. Fiona is starting to appreciate the chance to breathe.
In the last six months she’s done a lot of work with Cooper, and with the psychologist that NSW Police Legacy connected them with, preparing him for the camp he’s on now. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, but Fiona puts in the strongest of praise for Leisa, and for the other supervisors, for sitting with him and helping him to adjust to it all. “And he’s finally gotten to the point where he’s having a ball!”
We call that a result. A tough, loving result.