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Summer Camp Rejuvenation: Hitting the Reset Button

Jul 31, 2018

This summer I had the opportunity as a student pharmacist to attend a camp for youth with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and assist as a member of the medical staff. We spent the first few days setting up, going over camp procedures and policies, and preparing for arrival of the campers. This was my first time helping at such an event, and my expectations of how deeply the camp experience would impact the lives of the campers (and myself included!) were greatly exceeded.

For many of the campers, this was their first time away from home and the care of their usual support system. Emotions were high for both campers and parents as they said their goodbyes and transferred the responsibility of diabetes management over to the staff. I quickly learned that the typical home insulin requirements, insulin-to-carb ratios, and activity levels that the campers were accustomed to did not match the busy and active life at camp, and maintaining ”normal” glycemic control for many was a challenge. Being immersed in the daily life of children and adolescents living with T1D proved to involve much more than just monitoring blood glucose levels.


Today’s youth face countless challenges as they discover who they are and what they want to be. Many of them struggle with managing their T1D because they just want to be kids and not let their disease influence them or the activities they engage in. It is during these years that critical life decisions are made — do I ignore my condition or do my best to learn to manage it? Camp proved to be the reset button that so many of the kids desperately needed.

Positive changes in both attitude and acceptance could be seen every day as the week progressed. Campers learned from their peers and many of them embraced new roles in managing themselves, such as giving an injection for the first time, which was celebrated by everyone. The last night of camp ended with a ceremony I will never forget. Each camper had the opportunity to say what the past week meant to them and how it had changed them. Nerves and excitement were high, which was troublesome for blood glucose but allowed them to reflect on their growth and goals for the future. The transformation from who they were when they arrived to when they left is a true example of a disaster averted.

Lessons Learned:

  • The teenage years can set the stage for lifelong management of diabetes, and summer camp is unparalleled in providing the support and resources needed to set a solid foundation while learning from one’s peers.
  • Proper management of chronic conditions such as T1D requires continual re-evaluation of goals and motivation. A yearly visit to camp is what reinvigorates many of the children to live well with T1D throughout the year.
  • The power of peer-support is overwhelming. When kids are surrounded by people they can relate to, they forget about their diabetes and can comfortably be themselves.
  • The treatments and monitoring that we recommend are much easier said than done. People want what is best for them, but sometimes life gets in the way. Empathy for what each individual is going through should always be a top priority.
  • People with T1D are the most resilient group of individuals I have ever met and have a great appreciation for life. They possess the ability to face challenges head on, find solutions, and do it with a smile.

Tory Knebel, PharmD Candidate 2019
College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Washington State University

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