Experiences at Diabetes Camp

Posted by therese on Thu, 07/18/2013 - 12:48 in

Joey was nervous about going to diabetes camp this year. He went three years ago at age nine and didn’t have a great time. In retrospect, had we not taken him with us on vacation to Eagle River for the first two days, things may have been different.  We kind of set him up for failure. This year we made sure not to repeat our mistake.


Joey and his big brother Tony at diabetes camp.

American Diabetes Association (ADA) Family Link

Knowing that kids can get nervous before going away to a new place with people they don’t know, we worked with our local ADA on an event to get kids and their families together that were going to diabetes camp for the first time. We sent an e-mail to every family in Wisconsin that was registered for camp in 2013. In May we had our first annual Family Link event to unite kids with diabetes and their families who were going to Camp Lakota (in Wisconsin). We had around 12 families there, which was wonderful. We realized that only one third of the kids lived in the area, so we encouraged families from other areas to have their own events, with our help.

Packing Shoes, Shoes, Shoes and more Shoes??

Joey and I spent the better part of our Saturday morning packing all of the items that he would need to take along. Four pair of shoes?? Yep, one for everyday wear, one for the shower, one for boating and an old pair for the mud pit (a highlight for him)! We also packed pants, shorts, t-shirts, PJs, bug spray, sun block, and most important, insulin pump supplies. If the kids were on MDI (multiple daily injections) everything was there for them, but kids using insulin pumps had to bring their own pump supplies. Insulin, syringes and blood glucose test kits were all donated to the ADA for the campers.

On to Diabetes Camp

My son Tony and I drove Joey the three hours northwest to diabetes camp. When we got there, we were delighted with how organized everything was. In the first line, we got our slip that would be needed to pick him up on Friday, then we were off to the lice check area (if you have lice, you’re done before you even get started). After that, we went to double check the paperwork with all the insurance and contact information. This is also where we met Joey’s camp counselor who would be with him all week. He took us over to the medical building where we handed in our insulin, and any other medication, and discussed it with the doctor. At this point your child also gets a quick check up.

From there it was over to the dining room building where we got to see where the kids have their meals. They also had TrialNet available there for families (optional of course), which is a study that screens and observes relatives of people with type 1 diabetes to learn more about how the disease occurs. For more information, go to: http://www.diabetestrialnet.org.

After that, it was time to go check out the cabin. Each age group had their own cabin; Joey was with the 11- and 12-year-old campers. We made Joey’s bed, he put away his clothes and shoes, and then it was time for us to meet the nurse and her nursing student assistant who were assigned to Joey’s cabin. That’s where we went over Joey’s blood sugar numbers from the past few days, talked about his OmniPod insulin pump, gave her all of his insulin pump supplies, like Pods and his PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager).

He would not have to worry about carrying his backpack with his PDM or juice pouches with him ALL week. This is the first time ever that he would get to spend a week without carrying his diabetes bag. What a nice break!! Wherever he went, they had everything he would need in any situation. I felt so happy for him.

A Typical Day at Diabetes Camp









The kids have so many choices to make once they get to diabetes camp. A typical day is like this: Wake up at 7:30 AM, brush teeth, get dressed and get blood sugar checked. Head to breakfast, figure out carbs, get your insulin dosed. Then it’s off to a morning group activity like arts and crafts. Then it’s snack time and off to an educational station for a few minutes. For instance, you might learn about what A1C means or the differences between insulin pumps and MDI.

After that it’s off to lunch where a lot of fun activities go on like group competitions, counselors telling stories, celebrating birthdays, etc. After lunch the campers pick an activity like swimming, boating or fishing.  Then it’s snack time again along with some down time, just to relax and hang out in the cabin for a while before dinner. They can read, hang out with their new friends, play cards, etc.

After dinner they are off to even more planned activities. One of Joey’s favorites was to build a shelter out of items found in the woods and then having said shelter tested for water resistance. Some of Joey’s other choices were: boating, the mud pit (which afterwards, you swing from a tree into the lake to clean off), survival training, archery, Kayaking, canoeing and so much more. No wonder they were in bed and lights out at 9:30 PM.

Joey’s Insulin Pump Survived Camp with Flying Colors

I was a little worried about Joey’s Omnipod insulin pump and how many Pods Joey might go through at camp with one full week of swimming, mud pits, swimming, multiple showers, swimming...you get the picture.  I have to say that he only changed his Pod twice. We are very happy with our Omnipod.

Joey's Interview at Diabetes Camp













While Joey was at camp, we received word that a local TV station, ABC affiliate WAOW channel 9, wanted to do an interview with Joey. Because Joey is the WI ADA Ambassador, they had been interested in doing the interview for months. Joey being in their neck of the woods for the diabetes camp was just the angle they needed for their story. But, this interview meant that I would have to go back to camp! Oh darn! I was secretly thrilled!!

Joey was happy to see me and surprisingly wasn’t nervous for the interview. The reporter asked Joey questions about life with type 1 diabetes while playing football and basketball. He also asked what it means to him to be the WI ADA Ambassador. Additionally, they discussed Joey’s relationship with pro football player Jake Byrne.

It was such a great experience for Joey – he got the word out about type 1 diabetes and also got to plug the ADA and the Wisconsin Lions Camp.

Amazing Volunteers








After the interview we were invited to have lunch with the campers. We sat with some wonderful volunteers who really make the entire diabetes camp possible. There are volunteers that have been doing this for over 20 years!  All of the doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and most camp counselors are volunteers. Even about 50% of the counselors chose to do this without pay. They are mostly early 20-something college students. Awesome individuals.

These young adult counselors volunteer/work at the Wisconsin Lions Camp all summer. They’re there to help kids with diseases like type 1 diabetes or kids with mild cognitive disabilities (children who are deaf and hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired). Every week it’s a different group throughout the summer. They are amazing. Lion’s Camp is amazing!  It’s truly a blessing to all the families of kids with disabilities. It certainly is a blessing to us that Joey gets to attend such a wonderful camp.

Joey can’t wait to return to Camp Lakota next year!!

If you would like more information on the American Diabetes Association, please go to: http://www.diabetes.org.

If you would like to learn more about the Wisconsin Lions Camp, please go to: http://www.wisconsinlionscamp.com.