Since 1949, the American Diabetes Association® has been and continues to be the largest provider of camps for children living with diabetes in the world. Our nationwide camps enable kids with diabetes to just be kids and enjoy traditional summer activities, while learning important self-management skills from trained medical professionals and gaining self-confidence by spending time with peers who also have diabetes.
This story comes from Cindy Christine Chen, a first-time camp volunteer in 2016.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a unit counselor at Camp Wana Kura, a summer camp for kids with diabetes in Santee, California. This was my first time at an American Diabetes Association Camp, and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.
After living with type 1 diabetes for 13 years, I’ve come to realize the importance of having a support system. Managing diabetes is not easy, to say the least, and at times it can be overwhelming to deal with alone. I am grateful for my family and friends who have my back and help me to stay motivated whenever I experience diabetes burnout. Many children with diabetes aren’t as lucky and don’t have access to a support system—and that’s where these camps can make a world of difference.
During my time at Camp Wana Kura, I met over 100 kids with diabetes and listened to their stories. One camper in my unit said she is the only student with type 1 diabetes at her school, and that she was excited to meet others and not feel so alone. Another girl told me she was nervous about leaving her family to go to camp for a week—but by the end, she didn’t want to leave. She said to her mom, “These kids are just like me!”
It was amazing to see so many kids talking about diabetes together, rather than feeling embarrassed or alone. I overheard numerous conversations about hemoglobin A1C results, insulin pumps, carbohydrates and continuous glucose monitors. There is nothing like sitting outside in the sun and venting about things that only people with diabetes understand.
Volunteering at Camp Wana Kura made me realize the value of peer interaction for kids with diabetes. In fact, my experience there fueled my desire to help these children in the clinical setting. I’m studying to be a physician assistant in pediatric endocrinology, and I spent the rest of that summer working as a research assistant at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. I recruited families to take part in a study investigating the relationship between bacteria and diabetes, and I was excited that a few of my campers participated.
Diabetes has pushed me to pursue higher education and a career in the health field. I believe that health care professionals should provide in-person support to their patients in order to establish trust and make them feel more comfortable. This is especially true for people with diabetes, since they usually see the same endocrinology team every few months. As a physician assistant, I hope to offer that much-needed empathy that helps kids with diabetes succeed. As I saw for myself at Camp Wana Kura, children with diabetes thrive when they don’t feel so alone.
I think every child with diabetes should go to Camp. Between making new friends, talking about diabetes with people who truly understand, and participating in traditional summer activities like paddle-boarding, these camps offer a one-of-a-kind experience. As an adult staff member, I loved watching the kids interact and have fun together. I’d love to—and plan to—volunteer at Camp Wana Kura again!
Want to get involved with our camps?
Registration is now open for our 2017 summer camps! Don’t let your child miss out on this great experience—sign up today!
We’re also looking for camp volunteers and counselors like Cindy. Find a camp in your area to learn about available opportunities.
Give the gift of camp: Make a donation—and you’ll make a difference for children affected by diabetes.