Summer Camp Helps Kids Live With Type 1 Diabetes

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Fun and empowerment are the goals of an upcoming summer camp. It's designed to remind children with Type 1 diabetes they are more than just a number.

Nine-year-old Ellie Fincham is among the camp's veterans. Diagnosed when she was three-years old, it's hard for her to remember life before diabetes. Ellie has grown up seeing it as a way of life.

"I need to pay attention to if I feel low or when I'm shaky or if I'm thirsty when I'm hot or even if I'm sick," Ellie said, describing the disease as interesting. "Sometimes you're perfect and then you go wheeeeee!"

Ellie gained much of her knowledge and confidence attending a special Diabetes Day Camp put on by Cotton-O'Neil Diabetes and Endocrinology and Family Service and Guidance Center. It combines fun activities, like horseback riding and games, with lessons on things like counting carbs, checking blood sugar and administering insulin.

Dr. Naziya Tahseen says it is about teaching the children a lifestyle so they are able to accommodate living with Type 1 diabetes and not see it as a stigma or added responsibility. She says the earlier families are able to involve children in their own care, the better they will be at managing the disease and avoiding complications in the future.

Children can bring a friend or sibling along to the camp, too. Dr. James Casey says it not only makes them more comfortable, it can be an added benefit for a disease with potentially life-threatening complications. When the child with diabetes goes back to school, he says, their friends now are educated to be able to spot if the child might be having trouble and head off an emergency situation.

Ellie knows her diabetes can sometimes set her apart from the other kids. She sports portable devices on the back of each arm. One side is an insulin pump, the other is glucose monitor. She says people at school will ask her about them and she matter-of-factly explains that she has diabetes and the devices help her.

With help and support from doctors, family and friends, she says life is pretty sweet! She and other children with Type 1 diabetes, she says, can do anything other kids can do.

Diabetes Day Camp is for children with Type 1 diabetes who are ages 5 to 13. Cost is $25 for the child, plus $10 for a friend or sibling. Parents also may be included in sessions.

It's from noon to 5 pm dail, June 22nd to 26th at Gage Park's Snyder Cabin. To register or for information, call Trish at 785-235-7585 or email stgreer@mindspring.com; or call Lillie, 785-368-0736 lmusick@stormontvail.org.