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Camp for children with diabetes
The purpose is to educate not only children with type 1 diabetes, but also their support system — parents, siblings and friends.

Camp for children with diabetes

Photo by Isabel DiGiovanni

Diabetes and You: Kamp for Kids provides full week of health education for children with type 1 diabetes

Most children (and many adults for that matter) do not understand type 1 diabetes and its constant need for care and medical attention. To provide education, camaraderie and support, the University of Delaware’s Jennifer Saylor directs “Diabetes and You: Kamp for Kids” every summer in McDowell Hall for children ages 4 to 17. The purpose is to educate not only children with type 1 diabetes, but also their support system — parents, siblings and friends.

“Everyone here is pretty much going through the same thing, or has friends going through the same thing. It’s fun to just mess around and not have to worry about being the only one,” said 12-year-old Dylan Kruz, who has attended for six years.

The experience not only allows kids to meet peers living with the chronic condition, but also gives UD undergraduates the chance to take part through an undergraduate service-learning course in the School of Nursing.

“Kamp for Kids is a learning environment for everyone,” Saylor said. “The nursing students learn from a team of interprofessionals, including registered nurses, psychologists, registered dieticians, faculty and, most importantly, the children and their families. This course extends learning beyond the classroom and hospital setting.”

 

Saylor also recruits camp counselors from the Accelerated Nursing Degree Program to enroll in this nursing elective course.

“At the beginning of camp, I did not think too much of the constant effort and care that goes into taking care of diabetes,” said nursing student Colin Dabagian. “But seeing how much effort they put in everyday to monitor their own blood sugar is truly eye-opening. They should all be very proud of themselves.”

To inspire the campers, Saylor and the students create an annual camp theme. With a 2017 theme of “Road Trip,” children explored different rooms inspired by Hollywood, New Orleans, Boston, New York and Honolulu; the kids travelled around the country while receiving proper care by nurses and nursing students.

“It’s great that they get to support each other and see that they are not alone,” said Dora Eyong, a registered nurse at Kamp for Kids. “It’s also a good way for the [nursing student] counselors to get experience when they help kids with diabetes.”

The camp’s inaugural run was in 1999 with 16 campers under the direction of now retired professor Judith Herrman. Saylor took the reins in 2008 and has built the roster to 85 children with diabetes and their support groups.

“It is difficult to describe the daily effect of living with type 1 diabetes for these children and their families without living it,” said Saylor, “But, for one week, kids with type 1 diabetes are the cool kids in the group!”

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