Why should you care about diabetes camp?

First, a little announcement/disclaimer from me: I have recently been hired as the Camp Director for the Harrisburg Diabetic Youth Camp. I am thrilled about it and excited to make camp successful for many years to come. This post is directly dealing with camp and why I think it is important so I just wanted to put that out there so you all know the perspective I’m coming from now. I’ve always been very pro-camp and have always done whatever I could to promote but it is kind of my job now. However, I’d be writing this post no matter what and this post has absolutely nothing to do with me being camp director. Ok, now that that’s out of the way…

Since it’s Spring, and almost Summer, and camp is sneaking up on us, and since there has been a few mentions of diabetes camping thanks to Bret Michaels’s appearance on Celebrity Apprentice, I thought I’d write a post about WHY diabetes camp is important. I know a lot of people might not think that it is. I know that a lot of people might equate diabetes camp to some other kind of camp like basketball or drama or girl scout camp. They think it’s just a grouping of kids who have something in common, and it’s not a huge deal.

Our mission at HDYC has always been to give kids a normal camp experience. Our founders wanted to give kids with diabetes the opportunity to have the same camping adventures that their non-diabetic peers were having. Since then, however, camp has evolved into something far more important than just a campfire and a sing-along (although those are clearly important to the whole experience).

To put it simply, diabetes camp is extremely beneficial to children with diabetes. There have been many studies done to prove this including on in Turkey, one at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and one that Setebaid Services (the organization that runs my camp) has participated in. Kids who attend diabetes camp learn more about diabetes management and how to independently care for themselves. Kids who have attended camp have a better knowledge of their own care.

How and why does diabetes camp make such a positive impact on kids? Well, for many reasons. As we all know, people with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing depression than people who don’t have diabetes. The stress involved with dealing with this 24/7/365 disease can make anyone feel pretty awful, especially if a person has no outlet. Isolation is a huge problem when it comes to diabetes. People with diabetes often feel like they are all alone and no one understands them. This can make caring for the diabetic body even more stressful and difficult. Camp helps resolve this problem. When you come to camp, you meet all kinds of people with diabetes who are willing to talk about anything and everything involved with diabetes. Most campers and staff members keep in touch year-round, especially now that things like email and Facebook exist.

These people are also a fantastic resource for any problems you might be having. From where to try a new infusion site to how to bolus for something crazy to “OMG I ran out of test strips and can’t get anymore,” there is almost always someone to help you out. Some of the people at camp have had diabetes for decades, and can offer the best advice you could ever ask for. Most kids with diabetes see an endocrinologist and some see a diabetes educator, but there is nothing like learning from someone who lives with diabetes everyday.

I like to think that one of the major reasons I am so healthy today is because of camp. It has kept me sane through nearly 21 years of living with diabetes. I met one of my best friends at diabetes camp. My whole life has really been better because I went to camp. I know a lot of people don’t  have quite this much of an attachment to camp, but most are very positively influenced by it and would probably say it changed their lives for the better. In fact, I’ve gotten in contact (thanks to Facebook) with several of our HDYC alumni, and they all still talk about how much they loved camp.

If you or your kiddo hasn’t been to camp, please think about going! And you don’t have to be a camper to go to camp! Being a counselor is just as rewarding. Check out the Diabetes Education and Camping (DECA) website to find a camp near you.

And if you’re looking for a diabetes-related cause to support other than the big ones, please consider donating to your local diabetes camp! It may not sound as important as research for a cure, but it really truly helps keep people alive and healthy!

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9 Responses to Why should you care about diabetes camp?

  1. Erin. says:

    What a great post! And congrats on your position… Need anymore counselors? I actually posted about camp/treat on my blog about a month ago. I <3 camp so much!

    • cgstrauch says:

      Thanks Erin!! I’m still kind of on cloud nine about it.

      I think we might actually be covered for female counselors for this year, but I’m not sure at the moment. I’m waiting on an updated staff list from our Executive Director. I can put you on the list for next year for sure though!!

      Also, you just made me giggle cuz you put “bloodspot” instead of “blogspot” for your blog address. <3

  2. Very cool news! Sounds like a great place and you’ll have a great time in that position. I just recently this past weekend went back to a D-Camp as a speaker and spoke to some adult parents of more newly-diagnosed Kids with Diabetes. Aside from talking about the Diabetes Online Community, I also hit on these very points on the importance of D-Camp and why it’s needed for kids to feel somewhat “normal.” This was my first time back to camp since my teen years when I volunteered, and the couple times I attended as a young kid. Made me realize once again what I’d been missing and why it is so important. I’m now planning to get more involved in this one here in Indiana, and maybe even help put out a little newsletter they’re starting up. Thanks for sharing your new role with us, and good luck! I’ll look foward to reading how it goes!

  3. Lorraine says:

    Thanks for this post. As I mentioned, I’m a little nervous about our week of family camp planned for August. Your points are well taken though and bring me back to the reason why we signed up. I’m glad to hear from you first hand, about the positive impact it has had. And again – good luck!!!

  4. Mom says:

    As a parent I have seen first hand the positive impact of camp and we made sure Colleen attended as soon as she could and every year she was able to since. It was comforting that she have a typical camp experience with no worries about would her medical needs be understood and taken care of. Colleen has truly made friends for life and so happy that she is having a positive influence on young children who were once in her shoes. Camp has played a great part in her learning about living with diabetes and taking care of herself.

  5. [...] Strauch of My Sweet Life: Why should you care about diabetes camp? (Harrisburg Diabetic Youth [...]

  6. Penny says:

    Hey there! My Grace just returned from a week at Camp Setebaid (Camp Victory) and she loved it – it was her first year as she was finally 8!!! It was a great experience. Congrats on the position!

    • cgstrauch says:

      Thanks Penny! I was actually up at CS@CV one day to visit (we share some of our staff members) and to clean out some storage. It seemed like the kids were having a blast! The first year can always be scary, and I’m glad to hear she loved it!!! :)

  7. Mark says:

    Great topic, I know it’s quite late in the year already, but congrats on the position – I’m sure you are sailing nicely there now. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a camp for youth with D here in South Africa, we have a few which happen, and I’ve recently been asked to join two of them a “counselor”, though they won’t happen again for at least 6 months.

    I felt strongly that there content was lacking and although the kids enjoyed it, they still did not leave with confidence in managing their condition, and I feel both had got the kids there, but failed to utilise the opportunity properly. I’d be interested to get in contact and discuss some ideas and learn from your experience – I have no experience in event planning and management or even camping!

    Thanks, Mark

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