Rebel With a Cause: Aimee Greenholtz
Using challenging ropes courses to help youth take charge
Utah kids with diabetes have Aimee Greenholtz’s defiant streak in adolescence to thank for the event known as Kids Rock the World. “I was a really rebellious teenager,” says Greenholtz, 46, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 23. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, if I had this disease when I was a teenager, it would be really, really difficult.’ ”
The idea for the kid-centric program came to her in the summer of 2000. “I wanted to create an empowerment program to let kids know they don’t have to let their diabetes rule their life,” she says. That December, the first Kids Rock the World took place in Los Angeles, where Greenholtz lived and served as the volunteer vice president of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the American Diabetes Association.
The program moved with Greenholtz to Park City, Utah, where she now resides and oversees the yearly Kids Rock the World event with her husband, David, raising funds, landing sponsors, asking for donated goods, and tending to the nitty-gritty, such as nailing down a location, finding skilled instructors, and securing guest speakers who can talk about overcoming challenges.
The event aims to teach 11- to 15-year-olds with type 1 or type 2 diabetes responsibility, team building, and problem solving in the most fun way possible: with ropes courses at different heights. “They have a chance to make mistakes in a safe environment and learn how to problem solve,” Greenholtz says.
Instructors monitor activities and hammer home life lessons learned on the ropes courses, and Kids Rock the World counselors—many of whom have diabetes themselves—help doctors and certified diabetes educators make sure participants check their blood glucose and avoid hypoglycemia.
While the kids enjoy the fun of the courses and the excitement of meeting kids just like them, Greenholtz says many arrive at the Kids Rock the World event with one word on their lips: freedom. “You have a lot of helicopter parents who want to make sure their kids are OK, but it happens at a time when kids are naturally trying to pull away and become more independent,” she says. “[The day] gives them a lot of self-confidence. Once they finally overcome a challenge with one of the [courses], it’s so empowering. They go beyond what they thought were their own limits and learn they can get through it.”
The next Kids Rock the World event will be on May 17, 2014. Stay tuned for updates by visiting kidsrocktheworld.org.