According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million Americans (9.4% of the population) have been diagnosed with diabetes, and nearly 70 million people live in a state that could be described as pre-diabetic. Of those diagnosed, more than a million are children with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is characterized by a body's inability to produce insulin. Without insulin, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is difficult and can cause many health issues, even death. Using insulin therapy and other treatments, those diagnosed with diabetes can manage their blood sugar and lead normal, healthy lives.
This chronic illness can be particularly troublesome for young children. Because properly managing blood sugar levels requires knowledge of both nutrition and mathematics, this responsibility is up to parents and other caretakers until the child is old enough to manage their condition on their own.
At A-1 Self Storage, we believe every child should have the opportunity to live and grow in a safe, supportive environment. For this reason, we're proud to support Camp Wana Kura, one of many great summer camps organized by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
At Camp Wana Kura, children ages 5-17 with type 1 diabetes come together to take part in 4 days of summer fun at the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve. Around 225 kids attended the camp this year, which ran from July 24-27.
“It means so much to the parents to know that their kid is in a safe environment,” said Sheila Amanat, Associate Director for Project Management at the ADA. “Even if the kid goes to school during the day, or goes on a field trip, parents always have [their child's diabetes] in the back of their mind. They are thinking about it, because there is often a health professional who goes on the field trips with them, but they are sometimes not as knowledgeable about diabetes. I know a lot of the parents, when they drop their kids off at camp, they just know that their kid is well taken care of, because we have experts taking care of them.”
More than 100 volunteers helped facilitate the camp, many of whom were nurses and doctors specializing in pediatric endocrinology. Camp Wana Kura is also an opportunity for health care professionals who are not yet diabetes specialists to improve their skills, and become more familiar with practical management techniques. Additionally, the ADA is partnered with the University of California San Diego and California State University San Marcos schools of nursing to bring in volunteer student nurses who are eager to work with children managing type 1 diabetes.
Campers took part in activities ranging from rock climbing and paddle boating, to Polynesian dance classes and exotic animal presentations. Diabetes education was a central theme of the week's activities and took the form of games that taught skills necessary for effective blood sugar management.
The community at Camp Wana Kura is particularly supportive of children who have been newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In addition to the formal education provided by the camp programs, campers gain informal education from their peers.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for just 5% of all diabetes diagnosis, so most children go to school with just a handful of other diabetic students, if any at all. By spending more time around people who have lived with diabetes, campers who are newly diagnosed can organically learn about different ways to manage blood sugar from people in their peer group.
“Throughout the day, they see how other kids manage their diabetes or they talk to a nurse about different ways they can manage their diabetes themselves or any questions they have about their own diabetes.” Sheila said. “None of it is as formal as sitting down in a classroom setting and reading a book, but there is that campsite formal-informal with games and pictures, so kids learn how to manage their everyday life.”
Sheila said that in addition to the activities and education, campers experience many firsts at Camp Wana Kura. Newly diagnosed campers may have never before measured their blood sugar by themselves, given themselves an infusion, changed their infusion site, or taken a glucose tab.
The knowledge and confidence gained at Camp Wana Kura lasts long after camp ends, and so do many friendships. Sheila said that during the almost 30 years that the camp has been around, thousands of campers have made lasting friendships, and a few even return together to volunteer.
“We provide the environment and facilitate the experience, but, really, the magic is what happens between these kids learning from one another. Being able to look around and say, 'Hey, look! There are people who have the same thing that I have and they're going through the same experiences that I am.'” Sheila said. “It's just an amazing moment for them and a lot of them become lifelong friends after camp and can't wait to see each other again.”
From the whole team at A-1 Self Storage, thank you to the American Diabetes Association. It is an honor to support Camp Wana Kura! If you would like to donate, volunteer, or otherwise contribute to the ADA, please visit www.diabetes.org or call at 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383).