Magic of camp

Camp in Ca­noe Cove gives chil­dren liv­ing with Type 1 di­a­betes the chance to have fun with oth­ers who also have the dis­ease

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STEWART THE GUARDIAN dstew­art@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/DveSte­wart

Camp in Ca­noe Cove gives chil­dren liv­ing with Type 1 di­a­betes the chance to have fun with oth­ers who also have the dis­ease

It’s a chance to feel nor­mal, to feel like the rest of their friends, to fit in.

That’s how many of the chil­dren tak­ing part in Camp Red Fox in Ca­noe Cove last week de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence.

At first glance, it looks like a chil­dren’s camp any­where. They play games, they swim, they eat, they laugh and they are loud.

But what sep­a­rates the chil­dren at Camp Red Fox from oth­ers is that all of them — all 45 of them — are liv­ing with Type 1 di­a­betes. Their bod­ies don’t pro­duce in­sulin, a hor­mone that is needed to con­vert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.

Many of the camp coun­sel­lors also live with di­a­betes and used to at­tend six-day fun­fest them­selves.

Ev­ery­thing the kids do at this camp is mon­i­tored by the coun­sel­lors and a pro­fes­sional med­i­cal team that watches them like hawks 24 hours a day. When the kids sleep, there’s a nurse mak­ing sure their lev­els are good.

“It’s nice to be around other di­a­bet­ics,’’ Ellen Rob­bins, 13, of Char­lot­te­town told The Guardian when asked why she keeps com­ing back to the camp ev­ery sum­mer.

Rob­bins said the camp has helped teach her to man­age her di­a­betes. She’s just like ev­ery­one else. Mon­i­tor­ing what she eats or what she does is sim­ply rou­tine prac­tice here.

“I’ve made a lot of friends that I (al­ways) want to see again,’’ said Candy Wolf, 13, of Char­lot­te­town.

Lara Abram­son was di­ag­nosed with type 1 di­a­betes when she was six years old and started at­tend­ing the camp two years later. Now she’s man­ag­ing the camp and youth pro­grams in At­lantic Canada for the Cana­dian Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion.

“I think peo­ple who live with Type 1 di­a­betes are in huge need of com­mu­nity. Ev­ery­one needs a com­mu­nity to be­long to. It’s al­ways nice to be sur­rounded by like-minded peo­ple. It’s even bet­ter to be sur­rounded by like­minded peo­ple do­ing the same daily tasks as you, who might have the same strug­gles as you and who will celebrate your achieve­ments with you,’’ Abram­son said.

In be­tween each ac­tiv­ity at the camp, the kids snack and do blood glu­cose mon­i­tor­ing. When they’re sleep­ing, a nurse is check­ing on them a cou­ple of times through the night, some­thing any par­ent of a Type 1 di­a­betic knows all too well.

“The chil­dren make con­nec­tions at the camp, cre­ate life­long friend­ships (and) build self-es­teem,’’ Abram­son said.

Par­ents drop their kids off on Sun­day and don’t see them again un­til the fol­low­ing Fri­day.

Peggy Bethune, who the kids af­fec­tion­ately call Dr. Bee, is the med­i­cal di­rec­tor at the camp. She says they will go through 5,000 test strips in five days.

Bethune says dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties will af­fect the kids in dif­fer­ent ways. The med­i­cal staff in­cludes doc­tors, nurses and di­eti­cians. Re­gard­less of what the kids are do­ing, med­i­cal staff is right there and mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions are set up.

“We need a core num­ber of peo­ple very fa­mil­iar with Type 1 di­a­betes,’’ she says.

They call it the in­vis­i­ble dis­ease. Peo­ple with it can look nor­mal, but it can af­fect mood, nor­mal body func­tion, the way they think and re­sult in ex­haus­tion.

Bethune says it’s amaz­ing to see kids learn­ing to be com­fort­able about in­ject­ing them­selves around friends and con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing what they do and eat.

“It’s the magic of camp. They see other kids do­ing it,’’ she said.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

A group of chil­dren play Gaga Ball at Camp Red Fox in Ca­noe Cove re­cently. The camp is run by the Cana­dian Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion for chil­dren, young and old, liv­ing with Type 1 di­a­betes. The camp of­fers kids the op­por­tu­nity to be around peo­ple their own age who are also liv­ing with the dis­ease. It’s also de­signed to help teach them how to man­age their di­a­betes.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Lexi Ed­wards, left, and Abby Tutty, make wal­lets in their leather work­ing class as part of the ac­i­tiv­i­ties at Camp Red Fox.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Camp Red Fox of­fers plenty of op­tions for campers, in­clud­ing Jamie Gam­ble and Rocky Rankin, who dec­o­rate wa­ter­ing cups in their gar­den­ing class.

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