Come summer, it’s not just children who need vacations, but also their parents. That’s why diabetes camp has become so important in recent years for families who have children diagnosed with T1.
As any parent of a T1 child knows, after a diagnosis, “regular” summer camps can lose their appeal. The idea of sending your child off to live among strangers who know nothing about diabetes is about as stressful as the idea of sending your child off to the moon. (Maybe worse. The moon, as we all know, is made of cheese, so there’s limited access to carbohydrates.)
Even if your child has been living with diabetes for a while and is a pro at monitoring glucose and adjusting his levels of insulin, a “regular” camp, with unpredictable menus and frenzied schedules, may not be the best choice for him. Or for you, if you’d like to be able to get to sleep while he’s gone.
That’s where diabetes camps come in. They are run by people who know diabetes because they live with it themselves, and they have a medical staff around 24-7 to ensure that no one’s glucose levels get to partying too hard. At a diabetes camp, your child will have a “regular” camping experience, plus expert medical care. He will get to learn more about managing his condition and how to do things like give himself a shot or use a pump. Best of all, your child will get to experience the exhilaration of living among her tribe – making friends with people who face the same challenges that she does every day. In fact, going to diabetes camp at Camp Joslin had a huge impact on my own life (I attended the camp from the age of 7), and was even instrumental in the development of Timesulin.
Here are a few of the most highly regarded diabetes camps in the U.S., Canada and Europe:
CAMP SWEENEY, US – One of the best-known camps in the United States is Camp Sweeney, which has been around since 1950. The Texas camp offers an intensive three-week experience where children learn how to navigate diabetes with pros. They also have tons of fun, with activities that include archery, golf, paintball, jet skis, a dance studio, computer lab, a water park, and more. Camp Sweeney turns no child with diabetes away, regardless of their ability to pay. Website:http://www.campsweeney.org
CLARA BARTON CAMP, US – Also in theU.S., TheBarton Center for Diabetes Research offers camps for girls year round in North Oxford, Massachusetts, about an hour from Boston. Named for Clara Barton, the world renowned founder of the American Red Cross, the first camp was held in 1933 after Dr. Elliott P. Joslin, in a newspaper article, urged the creation of “islands of safety” for children with diabetes. Those islands of safety are today’s diabetes camps. The Barton Center offers summer camps ranging from one to three weeks, and other one- and multi-day events throughout the year. Website: http://www.bartoncenter.org.
CAMP JOSLIN, US – Camp Joslin is the brother camp to Clara Barton, and is also about an hour outside of Boston. I actually attended this camp for five years straight, and even volunteered there when I was older. The agenda includes all types of sports and recreational activities like kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, camping, and even dances and other events with their sister camp, Clara Barton. Because everyone who attends (and nearly every staff member) has diabetes, it’s a hugely life-changing and educational experience – at least it was for me. It was the first time in my life where I was around other people who had T1D and understood both the daily challenges that I had to face. It also introduced me to people who became friends for life, including Paul Madden who helped tremendously with the development of our Timesulin pen replacement cap.
D-CAMP, CANADA – Each year, the Canadian Diabetes Association offers “D-camps” in nine Canadian provinces, a total of 12 camps in all. The programs range from overnight camping to leadership camps to family camps in which all family members are invited to participate. Financial assistance is available. Website: http://www.dcamps/ca
CAMP D – GERMANY – “The Future Belongs to Me” is the motto of the diabetes camp known simply as “Camp D.” It’s open to young people with diabetes who live in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and are between the ages of 16 and 25. About 500 young people are expected to attend this year’s session, scheduled July 10-13. They will participate in sports and workshops and learn from the 150 medical professionals and caregivers who will be at the camp. Website: http://www.campd.info/
DIABETES UK – Diabetes UK offers three-day and weeklong events for three age groups: 7-11, 11-15 and 16-18 year olds. The camps are so popular in Northern Ireland that admissions standards have been developed, giving priority to children recently diagnosed or who have not attended in the past three years. Website: http://www.diabetes.org.uk
Diabetes camps aren’t just safe places where kids can go to have fun with their peers. It’s also a place where they can build confidence, learn how to better manage their diabetes on their own, and build lasting connections with other kids who understand the challenges of diabetes. For many people, myself included, it’s a life-changing experience. But don’t limit yourself to just these; find others athttp://www.diabetescamps.org. And if you know of others (or have attended one) that we don’t have listed, leave us a comment below and tell us all about it.