By: Eliana Osborn
More than ten million kids head off to summer camp each year. Just because your child has diabetes doesn’t mean that he or she must be left out of this rite of passage. Wherever you live, there are specialized camps to help your child have a great and safe experience.
In California, one of the longest running camps is Camp Conrad-Chinnock (http://dys.org/) in the San Bernadino mountains. Almost forty years ago, Amber attended camp here when it was called Camp DASC (Diabetes Association of Southern California). She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10 after going comatose at her school desk. She was the only child with diabetes in her school, long before disposable syringes.
During her two weeks at camp when she was eleven, Amber “learned not only how to give an injection, but into my arm by myself. I met my first boyfriend. I learned about the camaraderie we all shared: No one laughed if you began to cry out of the blue. I found true empathy from others going through the same things.”
In 2009, Rachel attended Camp Conrad-Chinnock as a quiet middle school student who didn’t really want to talk about diabetes. Like Amber, Rachel enjoyed all the typical camp activities like crafts and swimming, as well as the fellowship of other kids facing the same challenges.
Another West Coast camp is Gales Creek in Oregon (http://www.galescreekcamp.org/). One of its benefits is that nearly one-third of the counselors are former campers, offering kids a great perspective on living with diabetes without letting it get in the way. Like many other camps specifically designed for kids with health challenges, Gales Creek works to build independence. Participants not only keep active and make friends, but they also learn about their disease and their bodies.
Camp Sweeney in Texas offers longer than typical sessions of nearly three weeks (http://www.campsweeney.org/). They focus on building self-confidence and teaching strategies for a full, successful life with diabetes. Recent research has found that kids who attend Camp Sweeney come away with improved control of their blood sugar. With over sixty years in the camp business, Camp Sweeney serves more than 1000 kids every year.
The American Diabetes Association sponsors a variety of camps, mostly weekly takeovers of other camp facilities, to bring together kids with diabetes all over the country (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/parents-and-kids/ada-camps/). Fifty-three different camps are offered this year, including more specialized camps for horse enthusiasts and older teens.
If you are worried about paying for summer camp, many options are available. Almost all camps offer scholarships for those in need. Camp Sweeney splits their cost into those for camping and those for medical care, meaning that many insurance plans will cover part of your expenses. Lilly Diabetic offers scholarships through the ADA, and your community might have resources available as well.
For basic tips for kids about venturing off to camp, including questions they might not even want to ask, PBS Kids offers a great website called “Take Chances, Make Memories” (http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/friends/summercamp). With a little preparation, your child can enjoy summer camp even with diabetes.