Camp Sioux provides an opportunity for kids with diabetes to come together and find a sense of normalcy in their lives as well as an emotional support network.
The camp is fortunate to have passionate medical staff who volunteer and whose commitment enables kids to feel independent as they learn to manage their disease.
To understand some of the greatest impacts the camp has on members of our community, the stories of those who have been affected, both diabetic patients, their families, and loved ones, must be told.
Haley was only seven years old when the word ‘diabetes’ became a constant in her life. It was a day her mother, Brekka, said she will never forget.
Haley had just received a check-up and was eating an Icee at Target with her family when the hospital called Brekka. They were needed in the emergency room immediately.
Normal blood sugar levels should be in the 100s – Haley’s were over 900. Unfortunately, this news was followed by a week-long hospital stay and the shock of realizing that both Haley’s and her family’s lives would be changing with her diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.
Brekka remembers not knowing very much about the disease. She did know that she wanted to make it a priority to learn all she could to help empower and support her daughter.
Diabetes is a “24/7, 365-day disease” that “changes your world,” Brekka said, but Haley did all in her power to not let her disease control her life. At just seven, Haley was ready to give herself shots and own the disease. “I can do this” was a common phrase of Haley’s, said Brekka.
“Because a week can change your entire life.”
At eight years old, Haley attended Camp Sioux for the first time where she was able to meet other kids experiencing the challenges of living with diabetes. She was scared to death because she didn’t know what to expect and didn’t have a full grasp of the effects of diabetes yet. She expected a disaster.
Surprisingly, she experienced something quite different. At home, she felt like other kids couldn’t understand what she was going through, but at camp, she was excited to feel normal. While she was a little intimidated because she was young compared to other kids there, she quickly began to find her place and understand how to live a fulfilled life with diabetes.
She was welcomed with a big hug from her cabin leader, and on the same day met a girl who is still her best friend today. Throughout the week, she played fun games that teach campers how to manage low blood sugar and other things that come with diabetes.
Building lifelong confidence
When Haley returned from Camp Sioux, her mom could tell it was a game changer. Her daughter seemed refreshed and excited to try new things even with her disease.
Brekka also felt refreshed because for the first time since her daughter was diagnosed, she was able to feel less stress knowing that there were passionate people willing to help her daughter.
Inspired by her time at camp, Haley became an advocate and a mentor to others dealing with the same difficulties. When another family had a child who was diagnosed with Type 1, Haley became their babysitter.
Through Camp Sioux, she was transformed from the nervous camper to a confident caregiver.
Haley still attends Camp Sioux at the age of 21 as a camp counselor.
Diabetes “is a never-ending roller coaster,” Haley said, and she wants to be able to make an impact on younger kids at camp just like her counselors did for her.
Purpose to Impact
Camp Sioux is hosted by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) whose purpose is to do research, provide information, and create programming and advocacy in the name of diabetes. Haley’s story is just one of many campers.
All proceeds from Giving Hearts Day fund Camp Sioux and help to build confidence and transform lives just like Haley’s.
If you or someone you know would like more information about Camp Sioux, visit www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/diabetes-camp/camps/sioux-1.html.
Stay tuned for another nonprofit story next week, and remember to live with purpose!
Together, we can become the most generous region on the planet.