I pulled in to the parking lot of Camp Jean Nelson to the joyous symphony of kids laughing and singing along in the pool to Carly Rae Jepsen‘s Call Me Maybe. I could have been at any of thousands of summer camps across the continent at that instant. Costumed counselors were lip synching from the pool deck, the kids were splashing, laughing, and singing in the pool, and smiles were everywhere.
I could have been anywhere, but I was at the Easter Seals’ Camp Horizon just 45 minutes southwest of Calgary. For 3 weeks every summer, the camp is renamed Camp Jean Nelson and is taken over by kids with Type 1 diabetes. So in addition to ‘smores and singalongs, there’s strips and blood checks and carb counting.
My dear friend, Kerri Sparling, talks fondly of her time spent at summer camps for kids with diabetes. She was an avid journaller then (an avid blogger now) and flipped through her old journals from the time she went to Clara Barton Camp in Massachusetts. She didn’t write a lot about being diabetic, she says “I was busy being “just a kid” and not “a kid with diabetes,” which is the kind of childhood I was happy to have.”
That’s what Camp Jean Nelson does for these kids. They are just kids, like everyone else on site. They all have to fill out meal cards, count carbs, and do testing. If they feel low during activities, there’s a doctor on the side of the field where they can test their blood, and get some sugar, no big deal. They have a chance to be “normal.”
Each summer about 200 kids plow through the Camp Jean Nelson program that has them swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking, walking high ropes, singing campfire songs, and making new friends.
I came away from my visit with such a great feeling about the work that Team Diabetes does and how it is making an immediate difference in the lives of so many people.