Endless Summer at ADA Diabetes Camp
Mallory Dahlquist tells why she has gone to camp for two decades
I was 6 years old when my life changed in the blink of an eye: I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was the only one in my school and felt very alone. That is, until I went to the American Diabetes Association’s Camp Confidence in Des Plaines, Ill.
In the summer of 1994, eight months after my diagnosis, I walked onto the Methodist Camp Ground and was no longer the only person with diabetes. That week, I met so many other kids who were just like me. They took shots, tested their blood sugar, had experienced lows and highs, and had to watch what they were eating. I finally felt normal. Since that first week, I have not left camp. When I was too old to be a camper, I became first a runner, then junior counselor, senior counselor, and teacher counselor.
Camp has always been my favorite time of year. It used to be that one special week every summer, until I started working at the ADA as the associate manager of youth initiatives in Chicago/Northern Illinois. Now, instead of one week, I am part of six amazing weeks of summer camp for kids with diabetes.
I could not be more honored to be part of the Association and help kids with diabetes learn that they are not alone. I know firsthand how influential camp can be for someone with diabetes. I went into social work so I could support kids and families, and realized that working at the ADA in youth initiatives combined my passion for helping youth and families affected by diabetes and my love of camp.
I never left camp because camp is an inspiration not only to the campers but also to adults like me. The kids are my heroes and remind me every day that if they can do it, so can I. Everyone involved in camp is part of a team, and it’s a wonderful experience to see all of the support from staff and campers. For example, last summer I pushed myself to try new insulin pump pod sites. The only reason I was able to do it was because of the tremendous support from the medical staff and campers. The campers were next to me, showing me where I could put the pod on my outer thigh. When I finally had the courage to insert the pod, the campers in the health center cheered for me.
That is the kind of support and encouragement that all children with diabetes need. Camp turns everyday kids into superheroes.
Some ADA Diabetes Camps may still have openings for campers and volunteers this summer. Visit diabetes.org/camps to find a location near you.