By: Melissa Sattley
Parents of children with diabetes often struggle between concerns about protecting their children’s health and allowing them the independence of a normal, happy childhood. For many, the trail leads to camp! Summer camps for children with diabetes can be very beneficial for personal growth and exploration of diabetes control, while letting kids be kids in a natural setting.
But funding cuts and tight budgets have forced several camps to fold their tents or shorten camp schedules. To address the problem, diabetes camping experts from around the country met in March of 1996 and created the Diabetes Camp Association (DCA). Ron Brown, director of Bearskin Meadows Camp in Walnut Creek, California comments, “We created the DCA in order to fill a void. The American Camp Association (ACA) stopped having a diabetes camp conference, so for several years there has been no formal network for diabetes camps.”
The DCA would like families to be aware of the positive experiences children with diabetes can have at camp. Ron Brown describes the benefits of diabetes camp for children: “Camps can help improve self-confidence and self-esteem. Plus, older camp counselors can educate and offer their own experiences with diabetes, and at the same time give the children a good, fun summer experience.”
Patrick McWilliams, a 13-year-old, has been attending a camp for kids with diabetes in Massachusetts for the last three seasons. Every June he protests – not wanting to leave his friends or his computer – but his mother insists he go. When he returns from camp, his mother (a professor of nursing) says she notices that Patrick has a heightened awareness of health, a change of attitude and motivation to join school sports.
The DCA will meet at least once a year to focus on sharing resources with groups serving children with diabetes and their families. The DCA offers support through educational conferences, consultation and advocacy.
Currently, the DCA committee consists of eight diabetes camps from across the United States. All of these camps run multi-week sessions, have year-round organizations that support the camp and a full-time staff. In addition, they have been fully accredited by the American Camping Association.
The DCA is also looking for other diabetes camps to join their committee. For more information on the DCA committee, contact Ron Brown at Bearskin Meadow Camp, 1954 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite A, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, (510) 937-3393.
In addition, an International Diabetes Camp Conference will be held in Jackson Gap, Ala. from May 1 to May 4. For more information, contact Zula Walters at Camp Seal Harris, 46 Deaton Road, Laceys Spring, AL 35754, (205) 883-2556.