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A cup of coffee, a relaxing chat with friends, and the joy of watching your child have fun. This may not sound like a big deal, but when you have a young child with diabetes, these simple pleasures are everything.

“Diabetes Canada’s Family Camps gave us the opportunity for everything to be ‘normal’,” says Russ Hopson. “Parents are under so much pressure day in and day out when caring for a child with diabetes, but at camp we could relax, connect with other parents, and watch our kids just be kids.”

Russ and Jenna Hopson’s son, Sawyer, was only 21 months old when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Jenna describes learning to care for Sawyer, now five years old, as an ongoing journey with no pause button. “In the early days, there was so much trial and error in adjusting his insulin to his blood glucose levels, it was like a constant science experiment,” she says. Sawyer now wears a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and an insulin pump, which simplify monitoring and dosing, but parental vigilance is always a constant. Even now that Sawyer is at primary school with staff who have received enhanced training in diabetes care, Jenna and Russ still check in frequently and follow his blood glucose levels remotely via an app on their phones.

The pandemic added another layer of worry and responsibility. With five children under the age of nine (including two-year-old twins), the Hopsons were extra cautious to keep everyone safe and healthy.

So when Diabetes Canada announced their camp program was reopening in Nova Scotia for the first time in three years, the Hopsons were eager to connect in person with other families living with diabetes.

The weekend-long event at Maritimes Family Camp included programs for both adults and children. The grown-ups had the opportunity to talk about life with type 1 diabetes with understanding peers, camp staff (most of whom have type 1 diabetes) and the medical team.

Jenna says, “It was so special to share stories with people who know what you are going through.” Russ agrees, adding,

We got so much from being around other people who are going through the same experience with diabetes. We felt appreciated and valued. It was such a comfort to sit down, have a coffee, and hear other people’s stories and have them hear you.

Not only did Jenna and Russ get advice from other parents about what to expect as Sawyer gets older, but they also returned the favour by sharing their experiences with parents whose younger children had recently been diagnosed with diabetes.

As for Sawyer and his siblings, they did what all kids do at camp: They had fun. Canoeing, playing soccer, making tie-dye, climbing ropes, learning archery and singing by the campfire. The best part, according to Sawyer: “Playing with friends.”

Russ agrees. “It really great to see the kids run off and have the time of their lives with other kids.”

The Hopsons plan to return to family camp for years to come, and they hope Sawyer will want to go to D-Camps summer camp on his own when he gets older and perhaps eventually become a camp counsellor.

 “There is something magical about camp,” says Jenna.

Did you know?

Diabetes Canada runs family camps across the country for families with children living with type 1 diabetes. Visit Family Camps to learn more.

Author: Elizabeth Soutar

Category Tags: Impact Stories, Camps;

Region: National

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