By: Shelley Yeager
There’s a quick fix when it’s cold outside and you are missing camp. Jaime Yetra, Clara Barton Camp alumna, tackled it recently with a Facebook post requesting that her camp friends post their favorite camp songs. Soon, the page was flooded: “Bananas Unite,” “Tarzan,” “The Donut Song,” “Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe,” “Father Abraham” (did you know he had seven seas?). The songs kept coming and coming, along with a warming bit of camp banter.
As snippets of summers’ past and summers’ future, a camp song is the perfect place to capture the essence of any camp and transport oneself back to the magic. So, I indulged myself. I posted my favorite diabetes camp song, its notes flooding my heart with memories of friendships deeply woven, fun-filled days without inhibition, community, understanding, and sheer goofiness. Where else but camp can one find that mix?
Living with diabetes places frequent and rigorous demand’s on life-blood glucose monitoring, insulin adjustment and administration, meal planning and calculations, daily exercise, feeling different in a sometimes intolerant world. There is never a break from diabetes, never a day off. It is easy to feel alone with the condition.
Only about 1 in 300-400 children has diabetes. At diabetes camp, youth and families come together with young adult mentors and volunteer professionals who intimately understand diabetes. Camp motivates, encourages and supports everyone so that they can tackle the daily challenges that diabetes presents. The short-term benefit is palpable. The long-term benefit is significant.
Time to Go!
If you or your child has never been to diabetes camp, it is time to go. It’s that simple. Diabetes camp will change their, and your, life forever. Since shortly after the discovery of insulin in the 1920’s, diabetes camps have been welcoming youth with diabetes and their families.
Today, the Diabetes Education and Camping Association’s (DECA) member camps and affiliates offer diverse programs ranging from day trips and weekends for families, to resident multi-week summer camps and wilderness adventures. If you can imagine an activity, a DECA camp probably offers it. From scuba diving to skiing, and making music to baking cookies, diabetes camps do it all.
Diabetes camps are uniquely suited to youth and families with diabetes. Staffed by caring professionals and counselors, many of whom have diabetes themselves, diabetes camp communities radiate understanding of life with diabetes. This is coupled with best practices in diabetes management; effective educational models; and camp procedures that promote active, engaged, and safe programming. It makes diabetes camp a truly extraordinary place.
There is literally no other opportunity for a parent to have their child’s blood glucose, insulin, food and activity monitored closely 24/7 by a team of certified diabetes educators and leading endocrinologists while the camper engages in real-world activities like swimming, soccer, arts & crafts, and good old “horsing around.”
Where else do educators get the chance to teach carbohydrate counting by actually making chocolate chip cookies or playing a swift game of carbo-load relay? Where else can parents rest easy knowing that their child is safely cared for by experienced counselors who have diabetes themselves, a healthcare team of volunteers from the best medical centers, and a routine that follows safe guidelines established by national accrediting agencies?
When youth with diabetes and their families gather to share experiences amidst caring, passionate staff who truly understand, isolation, fear and misunderstanding is diminished. Instead, feelings of confidence, understanding, motivation, and inclusion emerge and last decades into the future.
An Abundance of Camps
There are more than 200 diabetes camps in North America that offer more than 400 diverse programs serving about 25,000 youth annually. There are many more camps worldwide that the Diabetes Education and Camping Association is working hard to locate and record.
DECA was established in 1997 to help diabetes camps and others who care for children and families with diabetes in their lives. Diabetes camps are typically charitable groups that survive because of endless commitments of volunteers and generous support of many donors. In fact, more than half of the youths attending diabetes camps receive some sort of scholarship. Families should never let the cost of camp deter them from seeking out a diabetes camp near them.
To find a camp near you, to volunteer at a camp or to make camp possible for a child by making a donation, please visit our website at www.diabetescamps.org.
In the meantime, keep singing that camp song. I know one that you will recognize, no matter who you are, “Singing in the rain, just singing in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m…..thumbs up, shoulders back– Chi, chi, cha. Chi, chi, cha. Chi, chi, cha – cha, cha.”
That’s the camp version and it makes me smile all over again.