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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! 

The awesome staff members at Clara Barton Camp.

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!)

Comments

This post reminds me why I feel sometimes it would have been easier to have been diagnosed younger. Making connections and friends was so much easier then, and who doesn't love summer camp?!

Glad you got to go back to your roots now that you're an "adult". ;-)

As a mom, I knew the minute we drove up the hill at Camp Nejeda that this was a place where my daughter would not feel different. No one would stare when she tested, everyone would REALLY KNOW how bad she felt when she was low or high. Eleven years later, she still loves camp, and will be friends for life with people she met there. The time she spent at camp was priceless for me as a mom. It helped her deal with diabetes in a way that I could never teach her, no matter how hard I tried...I'm sitting at my desk crying over your post, happy that there are camps like Clara Barton and Nejeda, and at the same time heartbroken that there have to be camps for kids with diabetes...

I went to diabetes summer camp for 5 years when I was younger and I'm still friends with several people I went to camp with. It's an amazing family. It was the best vacation and I wish I didn't have to grow up!

Cathy, I'm wiping tears along side of you. This is only the 2nd year my daughter will be going to camp and she is looking so forward to it.

Last year when we took her and we walked into the camp, as a parent I got an overwhelming sense of peace.

I am so thankful there are camps where she can go to feel "normal".

So glad you made a return trip to such a special place :)

(And suddenly I have memories of the latrines at Girl Scout weekend camp...)

The cabins had electricity when you were there... don't you remember the lone, sad, lightbulb hanging from the ceiling? :)

As someone who has diabeticized many songs over the years, I love the ketones version of the Chicken song!

I love that other people had the opportunities that I had as a kid, to attend such wonderful camps.

I too am wiping tears away just reading this post. I often wonder what the new & improved diabetes camp is like now, 20 yrs later (eek, time flys).

Oh how wonderful this looks! Oh wonderful that you got back and shared your life with these girls. That's empowerment. My gal G will be going to camp for the 1st time this year and I imagine, in August when she is there, and when she is a older as a teen, sitting there amongst all her T1 girlfriends from all over and feeling loved, connected, inspired and empowered. Thank you for sharing, and making me cry this morning.

Diabetes camps are AMAZING, as are the kids/teens who attend!
The best 3 summers of my life were spent at the now defunct Diabetes Camp Fire Fly in Spring Mountain PA!
Last year I spoke at the Donovan McNabb D-Camp and like you, I was having total flashbacks and didn't want to leave!
Kelly K

Kerri- I remember all the years of living in those old cabins together, and laughing at all the camp goofiness! I think everyone who is living with diabetes should become of the Barton family. If you have a child with diabetes- you should send them to experience Barton / Joslin programs! I know there are tons of wonderful diabetes camps out there, but Clara Barton will always have a special place in my heart. That is why my brick there says, "When there is a cure, I'll give it to you. I have camp." It is true. I know even when there is a cure, there will always be the support of the people at Clara Barton Camp behind me.

I'm so jealous of all the staff there this year. I worked at CBC last summer! This post was so beautiful. Camp was the first place I ever really felt normal, and also special. I love that places like this exist.

Wow. What an awesome atmosphere. How great that you were able to go back and visit - and how great for them to have you as a role-model. As a kid, I was shy and socially-inept (was??? like I've outgrown it??), so I know I wouldn't have appreciated an experience like that at the time. Which is really too bad, because hearing your descriptions and watching the video makes me want to go there now!

Oh, and when you first mentioned Abby, for a split-second I was trying to figure out why your brought your cat to Clara Barton. (And also if Siah was there too.)

I can't tell you how relieved I am that there is running water and electricity. We'll be there in August as a family. I have so much anticipation considering the high praise D camp gets from EVERYONE!

Thanks for sharing this, Kerri!

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! I so needed this blog today. My daughter is 10 and going to D camp (not the same one but it's still D camp!) on Sunday. She went last year to a mini session but this year is 11 days URGH! I'm so not ready for her to be gone that long but she is so excited. So after reading your feelings about camp I feel more ready to let her go. Thanks!!

These camps provide an invaluable service for the kids and their diabetes management. Great post.

Kerri,
This post is so touching and brought tears to my eyes. My son is presently at Camp Joslin for his second summer. The minute we arrived he jumped out of the car and could barely contain his excitement. He was SOOOO happy to be back at Joslin. What an unbelievably amazing experience for a child with diabetes to be in a place with fun camp activities where diabetes is the norm and all the kids and counselors are dealing with the same thing, I am glad to be enjoying a small vacation from diabetes and at the same time sad that he never will. I am so thankful for Camp Joslin and wish that every chlld with diabetes is able to have this incredible experience!
Lisa

Kerri, I am constantly amazed by how much you manage to get done. When my kiddos were new they were about all I was able to deal with. I'm in the same boat as Holly, dx'd at 25 so I had to go it alone. I wish there was a camp for us grown ups! all the best, as always.

This is so awesome! Would you ever have thought, all those years ago, that you'd be asked to come back like this? What an honor it must have been for you, but for the camp staff as well. Good on ya, Kerri. Good on ya.

I would have given anything to have known and been able to gone to a camp like that. There is nothing like that here for kids.

Hi Kerri!

My daughter Grace is going next week for her second year at CBC. She's doing the one week day camp, but I'm hoping next year she has the courage to go to the overnight.

She loved it last year. It was only 6 months after her dx, and it was the first time she was around other kids with diabetes. I know she'll remember her time there for the rest of her life.

OMG... How pumped were you going back to camp?!?! Even if it was just for a visit... I LOVED going to Diabetic Camp. ...and we had boys at our camp!!! teehee! ;P

Will Cross is going to be speaking at Clara Barton Camp next week!

My 5 year old is going to diabetes camp this weekend. It's a 3-day labor of love from our local docs and Benny's been looking forward to it since his last day of camp last year! We are so thankful for these opportunities.

Great post, Kerri! I've been asked to have that Teen Talk later in the fall at a local D-Camp on those same topics and appreciated hearing how you dealt with it. So, thanks!

You posted this five days before I went to camp. When I saw my old counselors in the picture (Amanda, Zhana, Allison, couldn't find Devon) I freaked out!

the camp is okk u feel like one big family there really strict about testing your shuger and what your eating. the conculars are horible though theres one in the video that i had she is so moody so its over really fun kinda but some of the staff is really bad some is great!

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