This content was originally published in East End Living's May 2021 edition. Written by Wendy Williams.
For the past 56 years, Camp Hendon has been providing children with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and their families a community of support. Each summer, children can escape to Camp Hendon, where everyone takes insulin, checks their blood sugar, and counts carbohydrates at meals and snacks. Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic, auto-immune disorder that is not the result of lifestyle or eating habits. Many kids at camp have never met another child with T1D, haven’t spent the night away from home since their diagnosis, and they struggle with feeling alone. Camp Hendon serves hundreds of children as they learn to champion their illness and grow among peers that are just like them.
Camp Hendon’s volunteer-led camping and outreach programs give children with T1D the opportunity to learn more about their diabetes and to grow more confident in their ability to handle the daily challenges they face while managing their disease. Camp Hendon specializes in providing a fun, recreational camping program for children with diabetes in a safe, medically-supervised (consisting of some of the region’s best pediatric endocrinologists, nurses, and certified diabetes educators) setting away from home.
Diabetes Camp is a positive step toward independence for parents and children alike. Camp Hendon recognizes that diabetes is a family matter. It affects far more than just the child with the diagnosis. For one week each year, Camp Hendon provides parents and caregivers a desperately-needed reprieve from checking on their child throughout the night. One invaluable week free from the responsibilities of insulin ratios, pump changes, and blood sugar alarms.
In recent years, the Camp Hendon program has expanded beyond providing two weeks of traditional summer camp experiences. Families and children have the opportunity to stay involved and connected to camp all year through weekend Family Retreats, Teen Retreats, caregiver support groups, and other social events.
Camp Hendon has never turned a camper away for financial reasons; each summer, approximately 40% of children attend on scholarship. Every child has the opportunity to participate in these life-changing programs, regardless of their ability to pay. The goal of Camp Hendon is to support as many youth and families as possible. As a nonprofit organization, all funding comes from grants, donations, fundraising events, and camper registration fees.
With no cure for diabetes on the immediate horizon, self-management and community have become critical for long-term diabetes care, mental health, and overall well-being. While many organizations are dedicated to finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, few offer support in the interim. Camp Hendon provides life-enhancing programs, without the promise of a cure, but with the guarantee of an experience that makes diabetes manageable until that cure is found.