"Kampers" enjoy the pool.

Kamp for Kids

Camp shares knowledge, promotes wellness in children with diabetes

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11:43 a.m., Aug. 15, 2011--Although the incidence of diabetes is on the rise, a child with the disease may still feel isolated and alone in a classroom where no other kids share the unique challenges of living with this disorder.

But at Kamp for Kids: Diabetes and You, everyone knows what it’s like to undergo daily injections, manage an insulin pump and monitor food intake. And everyone also finds out that kids with diabetes can have fun at camp like other kids—swimming, dancing, playing kickball and tag, and doing arts and crafts.

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Now in its 13th year on the University of Delaware campus, Kamp for Kids is the clinical component of a nursing elective, Topics in Healthcare Delivery. The course enables nursing and nutrition students to learn about diabetes and its treatment, then plan and implement the camp. At the same time, the camp offers an invaluable service to children and families dealing with the rigors of Type I diabetes. 

The program is staffed by students in UD’s accelerated nursing program, all of whom come to the program with degrees in other fields. 

“This experience is so valuable for them because they learn the coping mechanisms so essential to nursing,” says Jennifer Saylor, an instructor in UD’s School of Nursing. “They learn leadership and delegation, and they learn about themselves.

“They also learn that your day as a nurse never goes as planned because you’re dealing with human patients.  It’s the same with camp. One day this summer, we had three buses loaded with 72 kids, 23 counselors, and four registered nurses headed for the pool.  We got there and found out the pool was closed. So we had to completely change our plans. But things happen for a reason—we ended up in the pool at Carpenter Sports Building, and we discovered that there’s a rock climbing wall there and other things we can do with the kids in the future.”

Saylor says that Kamp for Kids is the only camp opportunity open to many children with diabetes. Parents feel comfortable sending their kids there because of the low camper-to-counselor ratio (4:1) and the resident knowledge about the disease. “Many parents ask us to work on specific things with their kids,” she says, “such as strategies for injecting themselves and the importance of changing the injection site so they don’t build up scar tissue.”

One teenage girl, who has been coming since she was eight years old, says the camp has been the best week of her summer every year.  Now a junior counselor, she says, “For me, it’s amazing to see little kids, who were diagnosed at a much earlier age than I was, who are so good at it. It’s interesting to see how well they cope.”

Michelle Olbrich, a nurse at the A. I. duPont Hospital for Children who works at Kamp for Kids and has a six-year-old daughter with diabetes, hit on what is perhaps the best part of the program: “The kids love it. They come here and build their confidence and their self-esteem, and they learn. Just being around other kids who know how they feel is so important for them.”

About Kamp for Kids

Kamp for Kids is a weeklong full-day camp for children with diabetes, as well as for siblings and friends of children affected by the disease. Started by Prof. Judy Herrman, it has been offered every summer on the UD campus since 1999. 

Support for Kamp for Kids is provided by the University of Delaware, A.I. duPont Hospital for Children Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation, Wilmington Flower Market, the UD Student Nursing Organization, Novo Nordisk, and Diabetes Alternative Research and Health Care Foundation.

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Ambre Alexander, Kathy F. Atkinson and Christian Derr

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