For nearly 70 years, our Camps have served as a lifeline for kids with diabetes ages 4 to 18 and their families, allowing children to develop the critical skills they need to thrive while managing this disease. On-site medical volunteers teach campers how to check blood glucose, count carbohydrates, independently administer insulin and develop a better understanding of diabetes care.
Laurie Diasio, RN, knows this well. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3 and attended camp from 1979 to 1983, but recalls a significantly different medical routine throughout her years as a camper. “We did not have blood glucose meters at that time,” shares Laurie. “We would line up at the bathroom with urine cups and bring our samples to the health center to be tested for glucose. Lows, which were based on how campers felt rather than an actual blood glucose number, were treated with Karo Syrup.”
Fast forward to 2000―Laurie was in nursing school at the time and was eventually recruited to volunteer at Camp Triangle D in Illinois. When Laurie first made the transition from camper to volunteer, only five campers at Camp Triangle D were using insulin pumps. Eighteen years later, now as the Health Team Coordinator at Camp Triangle D, Laurie cites 75 percent of campers in Illinois and across the country use some type of insulin pump or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system. Health professionals across all camps have kept pace, altering their teaching methods to ensurehildren can manage diabetes at camp with the same tools and technology they use at school and at home. The days of urine samples and Karo Syrup are far behind us.
Laurie calls camp a “crash course in diabetes management.” Many campers may not feel comfortable managing their diabetes because their mom, dad or caregivers are usually so involved, from carbohydrate counting and site rotation, to preparing insulin and understanding ever-changing technology.
“Implementing this new technology allows teachable moments for campers and volunteers,” says Laurie. “There’s an added level of independence and pride when a camper can understand and use his or her insulin pump or CGM system. Parents are pleased when campers return home and draw on the skills and education we were able to provide at camp.”
Last December, the ADA hosted a conference in which stakeholders convened to examine and address how to keep the camp experience up to date with the latest technology. At the conference, a living document titled Best Practices for the use of Diabetes Technology at Summer Camp was created to share preferred procedures and information with medical volunteers across the country. The group purposely chose the term “living document” rather than “guideline” since technology is moving so quickly and recommendations are being updated as products change and become FDA- approved.
Laurie Diasio continues to embrace these new “teachable moments” at camp, especially after her son, Nick, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011. Nick joined his mom at Camp Triangle D after he was diagnosed, where he not only learned to manage his diabetes, but met lifelong friends who experience the same everyday triumphs and challenges of diabetes care. The Diasio family was honored as our 2018 Mission Family at the Chicago Father of the Year Awards, where they shared their diabetes journey through generations and asked those in attendance to donate to our mission. After all, our camps wouldn’t be possible without these donors, the support of the health professionals who donate their time, and the many corporate and foundation partners who provide medication, supplies, educational materials, and financial support.