Children, providers, counselors, and parents are all gearing up for children’s diabetes camps. The amount of organization to meet all the American Camping Association requirements is mind boggling. But it does get done — achieved by volunteers, camp staff members and a variety of staff from health care organizations all over the United States. Supplies arrive from around the country, donated by a wide variety of companies including insulin manufacturers, glucometer companies, manufacturers of glucose tabs and shots, syringe and pen needle, food producers, etc. And then the list of purchases and rentals goes on and on — alcohol swabs, food, beverages, fishing rods, van rentals.
I truly believe diabetes camp is one of the best places for children to plan on being in the summer. It is usually a week long, but some are lucky enough to spend two weeks there. Children can run and play while having a wide variety of specialists to oversee their diabetes management. It is an optimal time to snatch those teachable moments to enhance each child’s unique understanding of their own diabetes and needs. Parents get a huge break over the week as well, knowing that their child is safe.
Providers and diabetes educators who are less knowledgeable can quickly learn so much about day-to-day management of children with diabetes in the unpredictable environment of camp.
If you have not considered volunteering for a children’s diabetes camp, do so. Camps cannot run without lots of medical support from individuals who know diabetes care. In addition, providers and diabetes educators who are less knowledgeable can quickly learn so much about day-to-day management of children with diabetes in the unpredictable environment of camp. But it is much more than that. It is a place where I learned that teens can really be human.
That if a fellow camper is struggling with a low blood glucose value, no matter what anyone else is doing, the action stops and that camper is cared for. If a camper is less willing to check blood glucose values, other campers will insist they do it together. They share favorite flavors of glucose tabs (or agree they are awful). They can discuss the tedium of having this frustrating disease, yet support each other daily. Some of our campers have made friends that go way beyond their years at camp, into the transition years as they head to college and the workforce. These friends are a support when they feel like the burden is just too much.
Younger children learn to change their own infusion sets or give insulin shots for the very first time. And for me, an educator who has worked with children for over 30 years, it remains a place where each year I take home more than I could possibly give. It is that warm and wonderful feeling of having experienced yet another successful year at camp with colleagues, counselors and children with diabetes.
If your summer is full, I am sorry you will not have the opportunity to attend camp this year. But I encourage you to look online and consider it for next year. Or if you want to play a small part in the camp near you, consider sponsoring a child that otherwise might not be able to attend. And always remember to recommend camp to any child in your care. You will be happy you did, and more importantly, so will the child.
About the Author:
Carla Cox is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She has been a certified diabetes educator for over 25 years, and served as an assistant adjunct professor for 14 years, teaching in areas of sports nutrition and exercise physiology. Currently she works in Missoula, Montana as a diabetes educator in both in- and outpatient settings.
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