You guys- a few weeks ago I had the time of my life at summer camp. Not just any summer camp, but a camp for type 1 diabetic kids and their friends and siblings. I served as a dietary intern, but I got so much back in return. (I don’t have a ton of pictures to share, because most of pictures had the kids in them).
In many ways, this camp was not unlike other summer camps. It had all the fun activities and more. The purpose of the camp is to give the kids a chance to have normal camp experience by not having to worry about their illness. The medical staff is available 24/7, so they do all they worrying. Some of the fun activities included ropes courses, swimming, jet skiing, water games, tie-dying and other crafts, scavenger hunts, and rock wall climbing.
There was also an epic ice cream sundae fight.
My role as a dietary intern involved lots of behind-the-scene work. The majority of our time was spent preparing meals and snacks. We also spent some time determining alternates for the many kids with food allergies. A huge element of planning meals/snacks for diabetics is determining the number of carbohydrates in each meal, so that the proper amount of insulin can be given. We helped the campers out by creating cards for each meal that outlined the carbohydrate count. In addition to the 3 meals/day, we provided 2 snacks.
Thanks to an amazing kitchen staff and our awesome camp dietitian, the meals were all very delicious and for the most part healthy! There was even a salad bar noted as the “carb free zone”, so the campers could get all they wanted.
One night for snack we let the kids make “dirt cups”. On this night I discovered that Kozy Shack no sugar added chocolate pudding may be the best pudding to ever cross my lips.
When we did get a bit of free time, we were allowed to enjoy some of the camp activities with the campers.
It was a super hot week, so we were all about the lake. It was somewhat like a warm bath, but I love the water when it’s like that! I am such a heat gal, so I thought the weather was amazing. A camp that is mostly outdoors isn’t for everyone, but I felt totally in my element. Also, I was in diet soda heaven.
Something that I really value about my camp experience was the medical exposure I got. I learned to check blood sugars and give insulin injections. The nurses, doctors, and dietitians had a plethora of knowledge and experience to share. They let us get the feel for wearing an insulin pump, like many of the campers do, by allowing us to wear a site for a couple of days. I didn’t really notice it unless I was changing or showering. The needle was extremely small!
The campers talked with me about what it is like to live with type 1 and how there are so many misconceptions about it. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. In type 1, the body cannot produce insulin, so insulin must be given externally. Insulin is the hormone that allows carbohydrates to be converted to energy. Type 1s must check their blood sugar multiple times a day. Read here and here for some more invaluable insight.
A huge takeaway was how normal the campers were. I love how they didn’t let their illness define them. I am thankful for camps like this one that let kids be kids. Overall it was so enriching, both for my education and my soul. I didn’t really want it to end.
I’m already making plans for next year.