Hello! My name is Maggie Epperson. A lot of you reading this probably know me because I was a Camp Hendon camper for ten years, and this summer will be my second year as a Camp Hendon Counselor. I am a freshman at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island majoring in Culinary Nutrition.
I’ll start by telling you a little of what that entails: My first trimester consisted of academic classes, English, math, nutrition, etc. Now I am in Culinary Labs. This consists of going into the kitchen for six hours a day cooking, moving, and loving every second of it as I chop, blanch, shock, deglaze, and everything else.
And here’s a secret: I almost didn’t come here. Yes, I was accepted and even had a scholarship. But I almost allowed Diabetes to get in the way of my dreams. I was terrified of going a thousand miles away from everything that I’ve ever known. Scared of leaving my support group that is Camp Hendon. Yes, I know that my camp family will always have my back, but I was scared. Still am, in fact.
The reason that I am here at JWU is because of an amazing lady named Melissa Kleber. If you are a camper you probably know her as “The Pump Lady.” I was in Dr. Foster’s office last spring, still debating whether I should go to Rhode Island, or choose a safer option closer to home. Melissa comes into the room, and after giving me a big hug and telling me how proud she is of me, and says: “ You’re going there right?”
I told her I was still thinking about it, and then proceeded to tell her more about JWU, how a lot of the chefs are Italian, how there are all these different clubs and opportunities, all with a huge smile on my face.
Again, she asks, “Why aren’t you sure?” I said, “Because I’m scared.” Her next words to me were “Be quiet, stop right now with the doubt, GO. If you need anything, and I mean anything at all, call me and I have your back.” A few days later, I let the world know through social media that I was going to Johnson and Wales and I was going to follow my dreams.
I almost let diabetes stand in the way of following my dreams. Not to say that I don’t have my bad days, or that it’s easy, because it’s not. In fact, a few weeks ago, I was in labs, it was the end of the day, and we were getting our plates for family meal. My blood sugar plummeted, I was shaking insanely bad ( Y’all don’t even want to know the number, it was BAD. Yes, Leslie, I know, yell at me later), and I spilled my entire plate of pot roast all over my apron and jacket. I was mortified and mad at myself that I did that. But as soon as I explained what happened, my friends in lab checked on me, grabbed me more bread, and showed me that they too had my back.
So yes, to those reading this, diabetes sucks. I will be the first to admit it. But you are not alone! I still talk to my Camp family quite often. My message here is to not let diabetes hold you back from following your dreams. You will have your bad days, as we all do, but each day you get to start anew and make it better. You will be surrounded by people you know and love, and who love you. I’m not perfect. I’m still scared that something bad will happen when I am in labs, but I am becoming confident. I know how to treat my lows and high,s and that if something does happen, I have friends that will make sure I am okay.
To conclude, follow your dreams, no matter what they are. Reach for the stars. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can hold you back except for yourself. Even then, if you are as lucky as I am, you will having someone, maybe from camp maybe not, telling you to be quiet and just GO.
To my Camp Hendon family: I love each of you so, so much, and wish you all the best until I see you this summer!