Larry Hauser reflects on his camp experience and the mission of the American Diabetes Association in June 29th's "In the Know."
As we each move through our day-to-day responsibilities, we sometimes forget about the many ways that our work is truly benefiting people with diabetes. I was reminded of this first hand when I had the chance to visit one of our oldest and largest Association Diabetes Camps last week—Camp Midicha in Fenton, MI (in the Michigan/NW Ohio chapter).
This was my first camp visit and it came about as part of my participation in the Southeast Michigan Community Leadership Board meeting. Spending time with more than 225 kids was a moving and eye-opening experience. It's clear to me that one of the greatest things about Diabetes Camp is that there is constant education without the campers even realizing it. Kids at our camps are learning a sense of independence and building confidence in their ability to live successfully with diabetes. For some, it means their first insulin shot without the helping hand of their Mom or Dad. For others, this is the first time they are changing their insulin pump site or pricking their own finger.
Another important aspect of Diabetes Camp is the camaraderie that develops among the campers. I was able to sense the joy many of these children were experiencing because they were in an environment with other children who face the same health-related issues they deal with every day. Clearly, facing these challenges becomes a bit easier when we know we are not alone. In fact, several of the young campers provided moving testimonials to me and the Board members about the strong friendships and support that came from their camp experience and continues long after camp has ended.
I got to see what is affectionately referred to as the "Pump Dump Station," where campers place their insulin pumps in a neatly organized shelving system before they go swimming. I was also impressed with the regular safety checks that went off like clockwork once the children took to the water. Despite the concern for health and safety, it was great to see that fun was never sacrificed. I also toured the Camp Health Center where I was wowed by the meticulous organization clearly designed to cover every detail of each camper's health and safety while they are with us. I would have felt completely comfortable having my own two children participate in one of our Diabetes Camps when they were this age.
Camp Midicha is just one of many of our camps that are now underway. This year we are providing 40 camps with 50 sessions in 25 states and serving 5,500 type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes campers. Having seen this group of kids and all that they take away from their time with us, I am even more proud of our camp legacy that dates back to 1940 and the positive impact that we are making on the lives of these children and their families. It's a mission moment that will not be forgotten by me, our campers or volunteers anytime soon. A special thanks to the Volunteer Committee Chair, Dr. Lowell Schmeltz, Debbie O'Leary, Senior Executive Director, Michigan/NW Ohio, and Stephanie Camalo, Director, Mission Delivery, for their hospitality!
By Kathy Rosenkranz
ADA Volunteer, District 27-A2 Diabetes Awareness Chair & PR Director
What is Camp Lakota-Diabetes Camp in Wisconsin? For me Camp Lakota is a magical place. I am 30 years old and yes when it comes to camp I believe in magic! Camp Lakota is housed at Wisconsin Lions Camp (WLC) through a wonderful partnership with the Wisconsin Lions Foundation (WLF) in a town about 17 miles North East of Steven’s Point, WI. It has 550 acres of gorgeous land and a private 45 acre lake-Lions Lake. WLC houses a summer long camping program for kids with disabilities of all kinds. Here however the child takes focus, not the special needs they have. During the 2, 1 week sessions of Diabetes Camp the campers get to be just that, a camper. The ADA provides a wonderful volunteer medical staff that allows these campers a safe environment to do just what any kid wants to do at summer camp-go in the infamous mud pit, swim in Lions Lake, go hiking on the trails, rock climb, do arts and crafts, and the list goes on, but most of all the campers get to meet other kids just like them.
Many of our campers come and they are the only child in there school or community with diabetes, but now they are surrounded by 149 other kids that have it too. Also many of the medical staff has diabetes, like me, Kathy Rosenkranz, Medical Staff Volunteer and District 27-A2 Lions Diabetes Awareness Chair/PR Director. I have been living with diabetes 20 years, and for the last 13 years have come back to camp to volunteer my time. Many ask why, what is the draw, well it goes back to that magic. Here I have seen campers start at 8 years old scared to be away from home the 1st time and unsure how to manage this diabetes they now have on their own, to being 16 and realizing how much they taught me over the years.
Diabetes Camp allows even me to make some of the most wonderful connections. I was too old to be a camper when I first heard of Diabetes Camp, so I started to volunteer and come back in many ways for my own selfish reasons; I get to be just like all the other kids. I have many friends now because of camp that have diabetes and we all have been through so many of the same struggles Diabetes can cause that we can talk to each other about it and in many ways talk to someone who just gets when you are having a bad numbers day.
The magic is all around in the kids learning how to count carbs on their own, putting their pump site in for the first time or even in something as simple as coming out of their shell and making friends that they want to talk to about their diabetes. Diabetes has no cure, so for now we will live the rest of our lives with it so if a camper can make some friends, learn a little and not feel alone in this, that’s a little bit of magic. Or like me find something that grows to a passion, I work with the ADA on the camp planning committee and love every minute, but the biggest piece of magic came from the ADA, Diabetes Camp and the growing partnership with Lions in WI. It helped me become a Lion who now can spread the word even farther on Diabetes Awareness because of the work both the ADA and Lions do. I guess you can see I love camp and I am counting down the days to my 2011 camp experience. I can’t wait to see old friends, make news ones and help show our campers living with Diabetes isn’t all that bad. I’ve done it for 20 years and living a healthy life. The entire camp experience is magical and I could go on and on about it, but the only way to truly understand it is to see it in the faces of the campers and staff!