Camps Create Positive Peer Pressure for Youth With Diabetes


Starting this Sunday, hundreds of kids living with Type 1 diabetes in Colorado finally felt “normal” as they arrived in Eagle Lake, just outside of Woodland Park, for the first day of Camp Colorado.

Camp Colorado is one of 118 diabetes summer camps across 45 states and Puerto Rico where Direct Relief is shipping medical supplies donated by its supporter Becton, Dickinson, and Co. (BD) as part of the health care company’s long-standing initiative to help children with diabetes learn how to live with and manage their condition with the support of their peers.

Hosted by the American Diabetes Association, more than 250 youth ages 8 to 17 years old are swimming, canoeing and more during the annual week-long Camp Colorado.

“The point of the camp is to be in a safe environment where they don’t focus on ‘the problem,”’ said camp counselor, Kyle Dickey. “They finally feel ‘normal’ because everyone there has diabetes.”

Dickey, along with many other counselors, volunteers and ADA staff members agreed that the mission of the camp, like the ADA vision, is to provide a “life free of diabetes and all its burdens.”

Staffed with healthcare professionals – endocrinologists, diabetes educators and dietitians – the camps employ a holistic approach to learning that is supported by counselors who are in many cases people with diabetes who attended camps when they were children.

One of the benefits of the camp, according to camp counselor Jack Campbell, is the positive encouragement from the other campers.

He said once a camper refused to inject his insulin properly and instead had a large gash on his forearm from stabbing himself with the needle.

As many times as the counselors tried to correct this behavior, it wasn’t until his buddies corrected him that he started to listen.

“They learn from each other,” Campbell said. “There is a ‘positive peer pressure’ of sorts; positive encouragement.”

First-time campers also become members of the “Rookies Club”: A group of first-year kids that are recognized and rewarded for their personal progress.

Along with learning the proper techniques and tools to use while living with diabetes, the campers share tricks of the trade with each other; sharing ideas that make their lives easier.

“The older girls tell each other where they can easily hide the pumps under their prom dresses and things like that,” Campbell said.

Camp Director Emily Fay has been a part of the program for six years now, working alongside Sandy Hoops, who has helped organize the camps for 35 years. Fay said her favorite part is “when we play capture the flag on Tuesday. It’s just total chaos.”

BD’s donation of insulin syringes, pen needles, and other items needed by the children participating in the camps and delivered by Direct Relief helped ADA reduce the cost of the camp, enabling more kids to have the opportunity to go.

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