Emily King, 12, Calgary 

When Emily King was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at eight years old, her mother, Karen, had just signed her up for a summer camp. But when she informed the camp about Emily’s diabetes, they told her Emily couldn’t attend because the camp didn’t have the appropriate support services. “She was so disappointed—it was pretty awful,” says Karen. Fortunately, the Kings learned about the Canadian Diabetes Association’s (CDA’s) Camp Jean Nelson in Alberta, where there was still space for her. It is one of 12 D-Camps across the country that combine a real camp experience with diabetes education for children with type 1 diabetes, who are between seven and 16 years old.

Newly diagnosed with the disease and having never been away from home before, Emily had some difficulty adjusting during the first couple of days. “I had just gotten diabetes, and I was scared to be without my parents,” she says. But things changed after she talked with a staff social worker who helped her get involved in camp activities. “By the middle of the week I was feeling a lot better and I’d made some friends,” Emily says. The turnaround was so dramatic that she went from being on the sidelines to receiving an award for being the most outgoing camper.

“It really was a self-esteem booster for her,” says Karen, who admits that she was also nervous about her daughter going to camp. “It was the longest week of my life; I was so worried.” But things were different when Emily went to camp for the second time. Says Karen: “I was able to take my first holiday from diabetes. I went out for dinner every night at a different restaurant and never once had to look at the nutritional information. I knew Emily now felt confident about going to camp, and because of that I was so relaxed and at peace.”
Now 12, Emily enjoyed her fourth year at Camp Jean Nelson this past summer. “I like seeing all my old friends and making some new ones,” she says. “I feel safe there because if you run into any problems, there are always people there to help you.”

To donate to the Canadian Diabetes Association, which sent more than 1,500 children to camp this year, including helping families who need financial assistance through camperships, visit diabetes.ca/donate.

“I learned there are a lot more people in the world who have diabetes than I thought there were. It made me feel like I wasn’t the only one.” – Emily King

This article by Anne Bokma originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue. For more information and to subscribe, visit diabetes.ca/dialogue.