Providing a Sense of Independence

Although this is not typical of my Navy Brat attitude thoughts, this is something that I shared with Greenville, SC diabetics and caregivers in preparation for a 3-year diabetes awareness campaign in our community. Definitely worth sharing with friends in other places!

I’m taking a moment to give any of you associated with juvenile diabetes an insight into the ADA Camp Independence for kids ages 6-12. Emily Wilson flawlessly coordinates the entire event and her comments/recap of this year’s camp are noted below. Thanks to Lori Church for the opportunity to share our story. Greenville is very fortunate to have this event in our area – it’s definitely something worth looking into.

My husband Greg and I are the super proud parents of Type 1 pumper/sensor Griffin, age 6 and Type 3 princess Morgan, age 5. Shortly after Griffin’s diagnosis on February 15, 2008, we made the decision to not be sorry, but to be hopeful…to not be fearful, but to be knowledgeable…and to not hold back, but to let Griffin be all that he can be. So the research began; and it still continues today.

It wasn’t long into our search for support groups, resource libraries, educators, website tools and such that we discovered Camp Independence. We took Griffin when he was 5 for an hour-long visit to the 2009 event at Camp Buckhead on Paris Mountain. He immediately saw glucose monitors, pumps, OmniPods and kids who were ‘like him’ playing in the pond, jumping in the air castle, learning about healthy eating choices and having a ball in a completely diabetes friendly environment. As it brought tears to my eyes, it brought a song to Griffin’s heart – this was something he couldn’t wait to do when he turned 6! So we waited 12 months.

June 28- July 1, 2010 couldn’t come soon enough! In May, we told Griffin he could bring anyone he wanted to Camp Independence as a way to show him this camp is all about his choices not ours. His best friend, (and the girl he wants to marry, so he tells us 🙂 Type 3 Sidney, was chosen without hesitation. Then, when Griffin learned it was at Furman University this year, he was ecstatic. This was way more than High School Musical – he was going to be in college!

Day 1 drop off was way harder for me than it was for Griffin and Sidney. This was definitely an extremely bittersweet moment – since it’s all about independence, right? They instantly forgot who I was and the fact that I was there as they entered an energetic conference room filled with 35+ kids, camp counselors, educators and medical assistants. So they were whisked away to create a name tag, write their name on their new water bottle, find a seat around the huge circle of tables and begin an art project. I drove off of the glamorous Furman campus knowing this was one of the best decisions Greg and I had ever made to enable Griffin on the path to diabetes self-management.

They had (2) swim days. They ate on campus and learned that pizza and burgers are a choice, but chicken, salads or pasta portions are a better choice. They got cool, free stuff. They walked a lot – so Griffin says. They laughed about everything. They brought home diabetes information for mom and dad. They checked BGs without someone asking ‘what are doing?’. At home, Griffin showed true interest in doing things himself or without hesitation if we asked him to do it. All his friends and counselors signed his t-shirt on the last day. And we heard for weeks following the camp, how many more days until we can go again? Priceless!

It all sounds so simple, but the short-term impact is profound and the long-term implications are yet to be discovered. If your Type 1 is age 6-12 by June 2011, you really need to ask more about this, consider it, pray that your child will be excited about it and then DO IT. You will note in Emily’s recap there is room for more and a need for medical staff – just another way you can get involved and support diabetic independence at a very early age!

Have a great weekend!
Mary Ellen

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Emily Wilson

To: Mary Ellen Grom

Sent: Fri, July 9, 2010 12:57:52 PM
Subject: Re: Greenville Camp Independence

Hi Mary Ellen,

The things that we really tried to work on at camp this year were regular blood glucose testing and make nutritious and balanced food choices. Every day at lunch, the campers were accompanied by nutrition interns who helped them pick lunch. This was a challenge because the Furman dining hall has pizza, cheeseburgers, and ice cream just to name a few not-so-healthy choices. So, we really encouraged the kids to choose some vegetables in every meal. They also sometimes had to choose whether to, say, have a 2nd bowl of spaghetti or desert (which was sugar free). So, we tried to work with them on really thinking about what they were putting in their bodies and making good decisions.

We also are very regular about blood sugar testing. So, we had them check when they arrived every morning, before lunch, before afternoon snack, and before they left every day. Then, if we were doing something that was a high activity level (like swimming) we would have them check before and after that. Then, of course if anyone feels low we check right then. We do this for a couple of reasons: 1. to keep them safe at camp and 2. to get them in the habit of regularly checking. All of our kids are pretty good about this in their lives anyway, but it’s always good to think about other factors that could contribute to high or low blood sugars and do some preventative testing for that.

I think that camp this year went really well. It was a definitely adjustment being at Furman, but I think everyone really liked it. We had about the same number of kids who’ve been coming in the past years, but this year we had more kids with diabetes than before. I would love to see our camper numbers get back to about 50. One area where we struggle a little is getting the proper amount of medical staff in. So, if you know of any nurses, MDs, or PAs in the area who might be interested in attending, please pass along my contact information.

The kids really seemed to like most of our activities and participated really well in those. There are some activities that we’ll probably adjust for next year (no kids yoga and more swim time). Furman has a lot to offer us as a host camp, so I think we will keep Camp Independence there and continue to explore all of the activities that they offer.

Emily Wilson
Associate Manager, Programs
Central North Carolina
American Diabetes Association


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