Today’s guest blog is a conversation with two volunteers at Camp Banting, which is a sleepover camp for kids with type 1 diabetes.
Sarah Lawrence MD, FRCPC
(AKA Dr. Sarah) is the volunteer Medical Director at Camp Banting when she’s not working as an Associate Professor and Chief of Endocrinology at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
Sarah Hamilton (AKA Sarah H) also volunteers at the camp when she’s not working as an Administrative Assistant in Ambulatory Diabetes Care at CHEO.
About Camp Banting
Dr. Sarah: “Every camp is special, but there’s something extra special about that bond that comes through medical camp, where everybody shares something unique that brings them together.”
Sarah H: “When kids come to the camp, you can see their realization when they’re like ‘Okay, this is okay—this truly is just a traditional camp, where everyone happens to have type 1 diabetes.’”
Dr. Sarah: “And diabetes doesn’t get in the way. Camp helps them realize ‘Wow, I can do whatever I want; diabetes doesn’t stop me—I just have to work with it.’”
Sarah H: “It’s empowering.”
Increasing kids’ independence in managing their diabetes
Dr. Sarah: “There was this one young guy this year, he was fairly new with diabetes, and he really wanted to learn to give his own injection. He was nervous but he took his pen, he put the needle on it, he dialed it up, primed it, and then he actually poked his skin and gave the insulin for the first time, and all of his cabinmates were behind him cheering, ‘That was awesome!’”
Sarah H: “If he had done that at home, it would be no less fantastic. But everybody at camp has had to give their first injection, so there’s this real, genuine excitement for that person, and it’s really neat too, because that has importance outside of camp. Knowing how to give his injections—that makes the logistics of having diabetes at school so much easier.”
Dr. Sarah: “And sleepovers. It opens up his world.”
What was different about the camp this year?
In 2017, the organization that previously funded Camp Banting refocused their priorities. Dr. Sarah said, “I was devastated. But alumni started emailing, saying ‘We have to keep this going.’ It was a leap of faith to run camp ourselves, independently, but we cobbled it together to cover the cost this year. We’re lucky that every penny we fundraise goes straight into running our camp. But it’s expensive.”
Sarah H: “We need to make this sustainable—for many years to come. This year we were lucky because we had great funding from industry partners, and from people who went to camp in the 60s and 70s and had seen this in the news. It speaks to the importance of the community that’s created there. I mean, the two people we had as program directors are also past campers, and have been there for ten, fifteen years. These are people that come back year after year after year, and continue to create this really special experience for campers.”
Dr. Sarah: “The people we have now are incredible. Every night in the dining hall everybody would be chattering in their groups, or up dancing, and everybody having fun. Every night I’d think ‘Gosh, this is what it’s all about. This sense of community, and everybody getting involved.’ We couldn’t ask for a better experience for the kids.”