Imagine a place where children are able to gather for new friendships and fun activities that teach them more about their daily routines and care options. Every year, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) hosts camps across the United States geared towards supporting kids with diabetes and their families.
At Tennessee’s only ADA camp location, Camp Sugar Falls, which is hosted by Camp Widjiwagonin Nashville, the ADA partners with staff from the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to provide sessions on building healthy meals and what it looks like to care for diabetes long term.
The camp also serves parents by offering resources throughout the week. This includes vendors such as insulin and technology companies that assist people with diabetes, as well as hosting parent breakout sessions to meet other families.
According to Melissa Wilson, the summer camp director, one of the greatest aspects of the camp is that children with diabetes aren’t the only ones who can attend – their siblings are invited to join in the fun as well.
“They, too, are living with this illness. It’s really helpful for them to see the kind of care and specific preparation their siblings go through every day,” said Melissa.
Campers enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, bonfires, ropes courses and water play. Other diabetes-specific learning activities are spaced throughout the day, including food bingo, designing healthy food plates, measuring out food portions and other age-specific items that assist kids in learning how to manage their diabetes.
One of Melissa’s favorite outcomes of camp is watching the change in kids as they go throughout the week, “At the beginning, they are awkward, where at the end, they are comfortable with their new friends and are excited to come back or even possibly work as a staff member one day.”
She says these lasting relationships create a space where kids can connect to each other and feel comfortable with their unique lifestyle.
“Camp helps these kids feel normal for a week. It’s so great to see the peer mentorship and the impact these campers can have on one another. They draw strength from each other.”