MANITOU BEACH, Sask. – Most kids would love a week at the lake, but a camp at Manitou Beach near Watrous, is tailored to kids living with type 1 diabetes.
D-Camp has been running by the Canadian Diabetes Association in Saskatchewan since 1956.
This year’s 65 campers, from ages eight to 14, know more about blood sugar and what affects it than most adults.
“My blood sugar was 8.5, so when I tested for lunch, a half hour ago, it was 10,” explained 14 year-old Emma Hinz from Muenster. “So I think, because I’m nervous, it’s gone down a little, but it’s in a good range.”
Hinz has been living with type 1 diabetes for 12 and a half years and now uses an insulin pump to help regulate her sugar levels: “This is just a needle every two days instead of a couple of needles every day. I still have to poke my finger but I can deal with that.”
At camp, there are no formal lessons about diabetes, but the kids leave knowing a lot more.
“I have learned better ways to do my insulin injections: to put it in as fast as you can and to get your skin away from your muscle when you do it,” said 10 year-old Austin Dean from Saskatoon.
“I’ve had diabetes for five years. I got it when I was three,” said 8 year-old Georgia Strasser from Watson. “The only part that I really enjoy about it is going to camp.”
Nola Kornder has worked as a nurse at the camp for three decades. She’s one of fifteen medical professionals ensuring the kids are safe.
Kornder said the tools and options have changed and kids are more confident at managing the disease.
“Way back we did insulin once a day when we were out here. Now it’s four to six times a day,” said Kornder. “It used to be we always told them (the kids) what to do. Now, lots of times, they come to us and say this is what I’d like to do and I think this would work.”
Most of the kids are used to their parents counting their carbohydrates, but at camp the kids learn to do it themselves.
“If we choose to eat more or less food then our pancreas just produces more insulin,” said Carla Coulson, a senior dietitian at the camp. “But for them, they don’t produce any insulin, so they have to figure out what they want to eat and then dose the amount of insulin to go with the amount of carbs.”
The Saskatchewan camp is one of twelve offered across the country: “This is one of our most popular camps in Canada. We have anywhere from between 25 to 40 kids a year that are on the wait list,” said Andrew Leonard, manager of camp and youth programs for western Canada with the Canadian Diabetes Association.