Friday, October 22, 2010

Guest Post: A Teen D-Camp Dream

This is a guest-post from Julie Shutt. who heads up the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana's local Camp Until a Cure. She's the mom of a Type 1 teen herself, and has long envisioned a place where teens can have both the camping experience with those "teen-adult" topics weaved in. Where they can talk about sex, drugs, drinking, college, and all of those young adult issues in the presence of those just like them. Her dream becomes a reality here this weeked, with the first-ever Time for Teens Weekend at D-Camp. Twenty-five teens are expected to attend - 18 girls and 7 guys. I'm thrilled to have the chance to attend and talk a little about my own experiences in these areas, and look forward early next week to sharing my recap of balancing that line between being 'an adult' and 'one of them' while there. In the meantime, please welcome Julie!
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My story begins with my son, Nick. He was diagnosed with diabetes when he was four. He’s 18 now. As a mom I wanted to do everything I could to help and support him. We got involved in support groups and walks and he went to the Diabetes Youth Foundation camp for four years. When he got too old to keep going to camp he started working there as a junior counselor.

I took my passion for diabetes advocacy into the professional realm and began working for the American Diabetes Association in Evansville, Indiana. I worked for the ADA for a couple of years before I took the job as Executive Director of the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana in 2004.

In the time I’ve been with the Foundation we have purchased a camp, begun a day camp for children 5-8 with diabetes, and taken teens on three out of state trips (white water rafting in WV, a trip to the Grand Canyon, and most recently a trip to NYC this summer). Helping children and teens is not only our job but our passion. Our board is made up entirely of diabetes professionals or parents of children with diabetes. Several of us have teenagers with diabetes and we know first hand the challenges this age groups faces.

Teens may not be comfortable talking to their parents or doctors about issues and situations that they may be dealing with now or will soon be facing like drinking, drugs, driving and sex. All of these activities will impact their diabetes, but do teens know in what ways?

To address this situation the DYFI's first-ever teen weekend was created. This is a weekend devoted just to teens -- with no parents allowed. A safe place where all these issues and others can be discussed with “twenty or thirty somethings” who've successfully mastered college, careers, living on their own, beginning families and diabetes. Almost the entire staff for the weekend is diabetic. The same is true for the speakers.

The weekend is about teens and so there will be lots of social activities including a paint ball challenge, zip line runs, campfire, midnight movies and field games.

A very special speaker is coming to talk with the teens after dinner, Conor Daly. Conor is an 18-year-old driving prodigy. In fact, right now Conor is ranked as the No. 1 open wheel driver in America! This young man has been racing cars since before most kids were in Algebra class. He comes by his skill and passion naturally: Conor’s dad, Derek, is a past Formula One and Indy car driver. Conor’s accomplishments are amazing, but what makes his story even more incredible is the fact that he has been living and racing with Type 1 diabetes for the last few years.

The goals of this weekend are to expose teens to some positive role models, give them medically accurate information, allow them to ask as many questions as they want, and to support them in their diabetes management and independence.

I can’t take diabetes away for my son or anyone else’s child. I don’t know what a low feels like or a high. I am limited in what I can do for him to make it better. But I can bring resources and education to him and others with diabetes in a fun, supportive environment.

I am so proud that the DYFI has expanded our reach even further and now helps kids with diabetes from ages 5-19. The goal of our camp and program is to help kids and teens self manage their disease for a lifetime of health, happiness and opportunities. Our new teen weekend is another way we are trying to accomplish that.

3 comments:

Cherise said...

Thank you for sharing! I love the message and happy that there is a place for children and teenagers living with diabetes.

Lorraine of "This is Caleb..." said...

Thank you Julie for your passion and commitment. Having been to family camp for the first time this August, I was able to see first hand the impact and power these experiences have.

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many.

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