Clara Barton Camp.
I love Clara Barton Camp. I love the way it smells, the way it looks, and the way it makes you feel as soon as you step foot on the grounds. Driving in to North Oxford, MA last weekend to speak to the staff, I was hit with a wave of excitement at the idea of visiting my old stomping grounds.
And even though the cabins are new (no more rotten old Pixie Place) and they have bathrooms and showers IN THEM (no more waking up a buddy in the middle of the night to take a trek to the lab - which was across the camp - because you had to pee), and even though I was a camper there over fifteen years ago, NOTHING has really changed. Almost all of the campers and staff have type 1 diabetes, making the few people who didn't have to test their blood sugar first thing in the morning the odd ones out (for once).
When I arrived, the dining hall was literally throbbing with the sounds of campers and staff singing camp songs at the top of their lungs. "Sounds exactly the same as when I was camper here," I said to Abby, who was giving me a quick tour of the new cabins at CBC. Admittedly, I felt a little old when she was walking me through the cabins, because I kept remarking at the fact that the structures had both running water and electricity.
"I feel like one of those old people who constantly tells you about how, when they went to school, they had to walk uphill BOTH WAYS, clutching potatoes in their hands to keep them warm. But seriously, cabins having bathrooms is amazing. My mind is blown."
Once we made it up to the dining hall, I had the absolute honor of meeting with the staff and LITs (Leaders in Training) at CBC that had diabetes. I was invited up to talk about growing up with diabetes what it's like to transition from being a child with diabetes to an "official" grown up with diabetes, and these girls were the best audience I have ever had. And the audience with the highest percentage of diabetes! According to the camp director, there are only about 14 people on the grounds who aren't living with diabetes - that's a LOT of insulin being piped in on a daily basis!
We all hung out in the dining hall and just chatted. It felt like a big slumber party, only I wasn't sporting pajamas (and I planned to sleep at home). They had a lot of questions about managing things like college, dating, and of course, the whole baby thing. I tried to be as honest as I could be, toeing the line between "one of them" and "an adult." Like when they asked me about drinking. "I know I'm supposed to be responsible and tell you that drinking with diabetes can be really dangerous, and can lead to some very serious diabetes-related consequences, which is all true. But I can't lie and say that I didn't drink in college. So here's what my experiences were like ..."
It was an incredible night. These girls are a group for the entire diabetes community to be proud of. Their energy, their endless smiles, their excitement for everything. They took pictures (some goofy) and burst into song at the mere mention of the word "song." (Video of a song about ketones coming at you ... now:)
Clara Barton Camp has this way of making you feel like you're being hugged the entire time you're there. It sounds cheesy, but it's true. CBC is like a second home to so many girls with diabetes, and for some, it's the first place they've ever felt like everything was going to be okay. I asked some of the staff members to tell me what camp means to them. Their responses were varied, but all hitting on the same general theme:
"Camp helps make me who I am."
"It feels good to be able to text someone in the 'off season' [when camp isn't in session] and vent about a high blood sugar."
"When I'm here, I sometimes feel homesick, but when I'm home, I definitely feel campsick."
"Here, diabetes is cool. The people who don't have it are 'wannabetics.'"
"When I am here, I feel like a whole person."
"I thought it would be about teaching the kids, but I'm learning so much myself here."
"This place is literally my second home."
"These are friends that I'll have for the rest of my life."
"Camp is my security."
"I'm glad I'm staff this year because I get to give back to something that gives so much to me."
But my favorite was when one staff member raised her hand and said, "It's the happy bubble. This whole place makes me feel like I'm in a happy bubble."
Clara Barton Camp is definitely one, big happy bubble. And it was such an honor to revisit a place that played a huge role in shaping how I view my diabetes today. Huge thanks to Abby, who coordinated the event, and to each and every member of the CBC staff for their warm and inspiring reception - and for the kick-ass t-shirt. (And props to Savannah for rocking those mismatched galoshes!)