My First Year at Camp
-By Beth Ruf
Starting in this role in October, 2016, this is my first DYS camp season. I have been looking forward to spending time with the kids and seeing, first-hand, what the experience is really like. I do not have type 1 diabetes and do not have a child with type 1, so this is a completely new experience for me.
I have read the research, talked to parents, and listened to the kids. My head knew why camp is important for a child with diabetes. They learn self-management, gain confidence, and make connections with other type 1 children. All of this leads to a happier and healthier kid. But, I knew that I wouldn’t really understand until I saw it all for myself.
I took camp emersion seriously. I helped with crafts, went on the paddle boat, made s’mores, fished, and even did the 30 ft. tree climb! This is summer camp, just like any other. Once in a while you are reminded that these kids all have diabetes, but for most of the day the staff and the campers get to forget and just be at summer camp.
Camp is a well-oiled machine. I didn’t appreciate how the staff really has things down to a science. The dietician has meals so well organized that the kids can calculate their carbs and get through the food line in just a few minutes. And dosing…that is amazing! One day the med staff had all 46 Big Shot campers dosed and waiting for their next activity in under 20 min!
I spent some time with the kids. I even ate a few meals with them. I wanted to get to know them and really learn what they wanted and needed. I learned that they don’t often get to stay away from home or go to other camps. Hot Shot Camps has given them an opportunity to do that. The campers also really appreciate meeting other kids with diabetes. Many don’t know other kids outside of camp that can relate to their struggles and frustrations. That is really important to a healthy attitude.
I was blown away by the warm welcome from the campers and staff. The atmosphere is so positive and welcoming. These kids are special! They are so protective of each other. I witnessed older kids comforting younger ones who were having trouble adjusting. One camper dropped her lunch tray and no less than 4 others RAN over and helped her clean it up. They were very welcoming to me and humored me when I asked them dumb diabetes questions.
During my first day at Middle Shots, one of the counselors decided that I needed to get a pump site to fit in with the rest of the kids. I was a little nervous, but I figured if they could all do it, so could I. So, for the remainder of camp I had a “pump” too. I got the tubing caught on things and it itched like crazy! I can’t say that I understand what it’s like to be tied to a pump and dependent on it. But, I have to say I can at least empathize a little with some of the annoyances!
I understand why the staff and counselors keep coming back! I didn’t want to leave. I missed my family, was exhausted, and sore, BUT the kids are all worth it. I am looking forward to seeing them all stop by the office to say hello. I already have my bag ready for next year, I won’t miss a minute!