New diabetes camp offers place for kids to bond and have fun

Twelve-year-old Erica Burke says she often feels like she's under a spotlight in her everyday life. But when she's at camp, she just feels normal.

Established after Diabetes Canada cancelled its annual camp on P.E.I.

Some Island kids are spending their week at the newly established diabetes camp, held at Camp Triumph. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Twelve-year-old Erica Burke says she often feels like she's under a spotlight in her everyday life. But when she's at camp, she just feels normal. 

"Where I am from, there is not a lot of diabetics there, so I feel like I am the odd person out. But here, there are so many people and I feel like I belong," Erica said.

"With diabetes, people see me testing my blood and look at me weird and it feels weird."

This week, Erica is at Camp Triumph, along with other children with diabetes. The new week-long diabetes camp was established by a group of Islanders in partnership with Camp Triumph, after Diabetes Canada announced it would be closing its annual camps in P.E.I. and New Brunswick. 

Camp Triumph stepped in when the community asked for help, and provided the programming and events for the kids, and also lined up medical staff to be on hand for the week.

Erica Burke says she feels normal when she's at camp with other kids who also have diabetes. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Letting kids be kids

There are nurses and a pediatrician on-site to attend to the kids multiple times a day. This usually involves checking their blood sugar, calculating the carbohydrates they will consume and injecting insulin regularly, including multiple times in the middle of the night.

Colbi Weyman, 14, has attended camp for eight years and has hit the age limit, so she plans to return next year as a counsellor.

"It is good to help younger kids out and relate to their problems day-to-day," he said. "Some people get picked on because of it. It is a struggle because you miss out on a lot of things because of your diabetes."

Staff and volunteers help monitor all of the kids at the camp. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Hannah Chalifoux, a camp volunteer, says the goal of the camp is to help kids learn how to manage their diabetes independently while having fun safely.

"It is an authentic learning experience. For example, if you look at the ropes course, someone living with diabetes can do anything anyone else can, but you do not feel that way yourself sometimes."

'Light at the end of their tunnel'

After Diabetes Canada announced it would not be running camps in P.E.I. and New Brunswick, Islanders rallied to establish a new camp.

Don Reid of the Lions Club stepped in and helped to fund-raise, with the aim for all kids with diabetes in P.E.I. to be able to attend camp. 

All year, kids look forward to returning to camp, said Don Reid, who helped raise money to establish a new camp. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

"This camp, to these kids, it's like the light at the end of their tunnel. Every year they're looking forward so, so much to being able to come to camp," Reid said. 

The camp runs until Friday.

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