Monday, August 15, 2011

A D-Camp Director's Insight

Badge created by Meredith from With a Side of Insulin
One of my fellow Diabetes Advocates Cara recently came up with a great idea to reach more people outside of the diabetes online universe and bring them into this community. Her "Your Voice Project" is a wonderfully-clever spin on guest-blogging and something we can all embrace to expand the DOC's reach and bring more people into this outstanding community of support. So, I asked Cara if I could point some of my upcoming guest-posters from my own D-Community offline and she agreed that'd be cool. 

So, here's the first: Jenna Holt, a 24-year old Type 1 diagnosed about seven years ago and the newest leader of the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana that runs the Camp Until A Cure. You can find her on Facebook, and with that I'll let Jenna take it away:

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I was diagnosed late in the game, at age 17. People liked to comment on whether it was easier being older and able to understand what was going on, or if by knowing a different lifestyle my whole life was harder to change. Well, after contemplating it for a while, I decided that neither is worse than the other. It was simply a change to be dealt with. What was hard was being different. An example: going to volleyball practice and being told that I was lazy by teammates when my sugars would drop below 50 because I would have to sit out and treat from exercise. I was still rather new at “living with diabetes,” but lazy was not a characteristic used to describe me. I was the only one in my school with diabetes, which meant a lot of confusion and myths. This continued through college. I didn’t really go out of my way to find a support group or people who were like me. I knew who I was, had great friends (most knew I was diabetic but not enough to be a resource), and was enjoying life. I guess I was old enough to take care of myself and not worry about finding others who could understand, who could empathize versus sympathizing.

But the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana changed my life three years ago, and it can be summed up in three words: passion, hope, and inspiration.

I found out about an organization that runs a camp for children with Type 1 (just like me.) I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Year One I was a counselor, talk about an indescribable experience. I had worked with kids all my life, although I took a different path from teaching. I am convinced that kids are better teachers than most adults I know. That being said, Year Two with DYFI brought me back as the Diabetes Education Instructor. The previous statement about children being teachers still held true - Not only are these kids resilient, but they are intelligent. They have to be.

This past January, I became the DYFI’s executive director. In all my time working with the camp, I was greeted by several counselors and staff “just like me.” These people understood what was going on when I was cranky (one of my defaults of being low), and I finally fit in. Maybe this is where my goal of reaching out to more children and teens with Type 1 has become such a focus of my new position with DYFI. I know there are kids out there who are just like me. In fact, I have had the privilege of meeting some of them. I would like to believe that what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you; however, I always felt something was missing. I was right.

This past camp season proved to be nothing short of amazing. We had over 180 kids from all over Indiana and a few other states who came together to enjoy being kids while learning about how to properly take care of their disease; and yes, this includes diet. With over 30 new campers, our DYFI family grew! Watching them learn from each other and form lasting friendships is something that is hard to put into words. Imagine that one moment in your life that gave you goose bumps, where you realized that something was taking place, something bigger than cheap thrills or material items. That moment where you felt a renewed hope, a feeling of inspiration. This is the best way to describe those three weeks of camp.

Mike asked me if I’ve had any lows while at camp, and there have been for sure! Last year, we had our sugars posted in the Diabetes Ed room for all the kids to see and ask questions. I had some lows and some highs, as did all the staff. I never had an extreme low, but last year I do remember having to go to the infirmary to get some glucose-- there was one day I couldn't keep my sugars up. I would keep track of the (six D-member) staff's sugars before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime and this gave kids the opportunity to say "Hey, you had a high... how come?"

See, even PWDs CAN skydive!
Overall, DYFI is an amazing organization. Part of what makes this organization so great: it’s family members. The kids, the parents, the staff, the volunteers, the supporters, the board members, the family and friends of these people, those who take a stand against myths and negative perceptions in the community all make up this family. Growing up in a rather small family, I always dreamed of having a bigger one. Without even realizing it at the time, my dream came true. I now spend my time working to serve this family. Through fundraising, grant writing, frequenting support groups, and any other opportunity that comes my way, I hope to be able to raise more money and reach more kids – particularly kids who may be feeling what I was feeling. I don’t think I could ask for a better way to spend my time.

Passion is something that will take you farther than anything else. This is a passionate family with a passionate director. With this combination, DYFI will inevitably continue to serve children and their families. Like I mentioned previously, DYFI has changed my life. It is my hope to help change the lives of others in the community.

5 comments:

Roselady said...

We're fellow Indianans. Nice to meet another person dealing with d. Sounds like you've really learned how to take the positive out of the disease. And, that's great. That's the only way to make it work in your life!

Hallie said...

Great post!! As hard as it will be for me, I know D camp will be an important part of Sweet's life. I so want her to have that feeling of "same".

Cara said...

Awesome post! Being that involved in camp has to be a lot of work, but rewarding. Diabetes camp was the first time in my life that I felt "normal"as a kid. Thanks for giving other kids that same experience.

Natalie said...

Don't think that you were "older" when diagnosed! More than 50% of Type 1's are diagnosed in adulthood, and the oldest person I have heard about was 85. I'd like to see more involvement of older T1's in camp -- I tried to volunteer to help in our local camp, but everything was being done by docs and CDEs and while the counselors did have DM, the only other activities were led by non-diabetic volunteers. So there was nothing for me to do. :-( I'd like to see the kids brought into our adult community as they get older!

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