The American Diabetes Association® is proud to offer Diabetes Camps as a way for children living with diabetes to just be kids and enjoy traditional summer camp activities—all while learning important diabetes self-management skills from trained medical professionals and gaining self-confidence by spending time with peers who also live with diabetes.
This story comes from Lisa Savoy, whose daughter Nichole has attended Diabetes Camp three times. Read on—then find out how to become a Camp Champion.
How do I even begin to explain what a life-changing experience Camp Carefree was for my daughter? Nichole was diagnosed with type 1 at age 9, and we actually learned of New Hampshire’s Camp Carefree, a two-week sleepover camp for kids with diabetes, during that first trip to the doctor. The doctor who diagnosed her happened to spend part of his summers there, and he encouraged us to look into it because Nichole was old enough for camp.
Our daughter used to be a bit of a “mommy’s girl,” though, so we weren’t surprised that she didn’t initially express interest. However, by age 11, Nichole told us that she was ready—and it was the best decision she’s made in her life.
Since being diagnosed, Nichole hadn’t slept over at anyone’s house; going to Camp Carefree was a big deal for her and us. We could tell she was a little nervous as she sat quietly in the car during our drive to camp, but one of the great things about Camp Carefree is that new campers check in before returning campers—all of the other children arriving with us were in the same boat as Nichole. She was hardly out of the car before she made friends with a girl her age!
We only stayed for a bit before leaving Nichole with her counselors and fellow campers. I remember looking at her as we drove away, praying she would do well. It took me almost a week to grow accustomed to not getting up to check on her in the middle of the night. During her time at camp, writing letters was our only method of communication, and I couldn’t wait to see her again.
When I arrived back at the camp two weeks later, I was greeted by a different Nichole. Camp Carefree had matured my daughter—she came home with more confidence and more knowledge about diabetes. Before camp, Nichole had only changed her insulin pump infusion site once. Afterward, she couldn’t wait to show me that she could change and rotate her sites all on her own, and she shared diabetes knowledge that even I didn’t know.
What Nichole loved most about Camp Carefree was that she spent two weeks with other kids who deal with the exact same things she does on a daily basis. She said she felt normal, and the friendships that she made at camp have made a lasting impression. She talks to her new friends almost daily, and even though some of them live far away, she’s gotten to see a few in person since camp ended.
Now about to begin her fourth summer of camp (and final summer as a camper), Nichole can’t wait to return—she’s even planning to become a Counselor-In-Training next year so she can help new campers the way that her counselors helped her.
I encourage every family who has a child with diabetes to look into Diabetes Camp. The time away may seem long, but it goes by quickly and is absolutely worth it. Camp Carefree is the best thing to happen to my daughter since diagnosis.
Want to get involved with Diabetes Camps? Become a Camp Champion! By donating to the Association’s Diabetes Camps, you’ll help Team Tackle—an initiative uniting current, former and upcoming players from all 32 professional football teams—provide life-changing experiences for children with diabetes. Learn more at diabetes.org/campchampion.