We have become absolute fans of diabetes camp! What a fantastic adventure and an amazing perspective into the world of Type 1 diabetes.
With our son being eight years old and having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just last summer, we were obviously extremely hesitant as we thought about summer camps for him this year. Not only has he never spent any significant time away from home, but with the added stress of worrying about his health, we were resigned to the fact that he would likely not be able to experience the joys of summer camp until later in life.
But then we were told of camps that specialize in adventures for kids with Type 1 diabetes. I did a little research, finding two camps within a relatively short distance from our home, and reached out. The camp we eventually chose was Camp Conrad Chinnock, located in the San Bernadino Mountains in Southern California.
The camp was excellent and completely inspiring. Being our first time, we chose to go to their ‘transition camp’ which allowed both parents and the child to stay for the weekend before setting the child free for the next week. During the weekend not only did our son immediately gain a sense of independence (“see ya!”) but we enjoyed a series of discussions with the camp staff, counselors, doctors and the other parents learning not only about how the camp is run but also what it is like to live with diabetes (note: almost all the staff and counselors have Type 1 themselves).
Of course the experience was valuable to us as parents, being able to ask young adults about their own lives with this disease and being able to learn about other parents’ experiences, but it was tremendous for our son on two levels.
First he got the great camp experience – staying in a cabin with friends, rock climbing, swimming, archery, hiking, all the great outdoors stuff. That alone was worth the money. By the end of the week he was completely exhausted.
But more importantly (and this may not have dawned on him given his age) but he got to meet a lot of other kids going through the same exact issues he goes through. He no longer was the odd kid out. There was no awkward moments where he had to excuse himself to go to the nurses office to get a shot – his whole cabin did this together. He didn’t need to feel shy about feeling ‘low’ – all his friends at one time or another did and all the counselors had testers and glucose tablets on them at all times to help out.
He also got to learn how other kids manage their diabetes. About half the kids his age were on the pump and the others were taking shots. He got to learn about the pump and see how to operate one. And they all learned about carb counting and bolus and insulin calculations.
We are so happy we found this place and so relieved to know that kids with Type 1 diabetes can not only experience a camp just like every other kid, but that they can grow up to be responsible and inspirational people – all the counselors were perfect models of this.
Our son was so enamored by the experience that he asked to go back, so we’re going to send him again in a couple weeks.