“I hope they find a cure for diabetes. But if they do, I’ll still come to camp. It will just be a camp for kids who
used to have diabetes.
That would be great because camp is totally awesome.”
Kids love summer camp. Kids with diabetes are no exception.
The experience of diabetes camp in a child’s life is second only to medical management and family involvement. There is no other
place where a child with diabetes feels completely “normal,” part of the group, accepted, understood and supported. Cared for by
a diabetes team comprised of physician, nurse educator, nutritionist and, if necessary, mental health professional and motivated by
young adult mentors (camp counselors) who also have diabetes, diabetes camp provides a safe haven that combines diabetes
education with good, active fun. Add a dose of peers who share similar experiences and an amazing result occurs. Diabetes
becomes secondary to having a roaring good time.
Since the discovery of insulin in 1921, diabetes camps across North America have provided diabetes
in an atmosphere where children learn by doing.
The pioneers of diabetes camp, such as Elliott P. Joslin of the esteemed Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, realized that doctors could
not just tell children how to dose insulin, plan meals (and actually eat them), exercise the right amount at the right time, and monitor
their own glucose. Rather, children learned and retained what they learned when placed in a child-friendly atmosphere, where the
daily schedule is set up to do the right things at the right times – check glucose, administer insulin, eat, play, check glucose, administer
insulin, eat, play and so on. The diabetes camping movement was so successful in the United States that within a few decades of the
discovery of insulin over 100 diabetes camps existed, most operated by a dedicated group of medical professionals who would literally
move their practices to “camp” in the summer. While much has changed – it sure is easier to do blood glucose monitoring around a
picnic table than boiling urine in make-shift camp laboratories – much has remained the same. Diabetes camps exist because children
desperately need and love them.
From traditional two-week overnight camps for all age groups, diabetes camps have kept pace with the demands of families, offering
unique and diverse opportunities. Back-country adventures, surf and ski camps, day programs, family camps and “bring a friend”
programs are offered. Many camps now offer weekend and school vacation programs, as well. In 2011, over 30,000 children in
North America were served by over 400 camping programs, predominantly serving youth with type 1 diabetes. To date, there are
only a few programs that address the growing problem of type 2 diabetes in youth. < Go Back to Diabetes Camping Resources