DCamp Part 6 | The People

I’ve had difficulty organizing my thoughts for this post, the last in my DCamp series. I don’t think I can properly articulate the power the people of DCamp have. They are nothing short of magical.

All the people who work at the Clara Barton Center and Camp Joslin are special. They LOVE being there and it shows. Many of them attended DCamp as children. Some don’t live with diabetes themselves. But all, adults and teens alike, are of a very high caliber – they know how to have fun, but they also know when to be serious. They are an impressive crew.

I’ve chosen to focus on one counselor, however. I’ll call him Mr. D (only because his name starts with D).

I didn’t notice him at first. He wasn’t a counselor in our cabin and I don’t think we ever came in direct contact with him, but he’s one of the first people that pop into my mind when I think of DCamp.

He is vivacious.

He is passionate.

He is responsible.

He is caring.

In him, I see Caleb. I think that’s why he made such an impression on me. He wore a bandana on his head with a bow tied on the top. He was often the loudest singer. I have memories of him running around the dining hall during meals, inspiring smiles and excitement.

This is the Caleb that I know. He doesn’t show this side of himself to those outside his family. But it’s the boy that lives in my home. The vivacious, life of the party, at times pushing-the-envelope-inappropriate Caleb. You can’t help but laugh at him and with him (even when you know you shouldn’t).

It made me teary, and oddly proud to think that Caleb could some day be doing great things like these counselors do.

But there’s more to it than that.

I won’t forget the days-old tattoo that read “Camp Joslin Forever” on Mr. D’s arm. Remember? I said he was passionate.

And I will definitely not forget the story that Mr. D shared with us. One night, some of the counselors living with diabetes held a session for parents only. I think they knew very well the impact they would have on us. They knew we would soak up their words like sponges. They made themselves available selflessly, for our, and thereby our children’s, benefit.

Mr. D spoke about always being the person primarily responsible for his diabetes. I think he said he was diagnosed in his pre-teens. His parents had left his care almost entirely up to him. He doesn’t fault them for that, nor did he present it in any way other than they thought they were doing what was best for him.

It’s a difficult balance – to allow your child age appropriate responsibility without giving them too much.

Mr. D explained that although he was in charge of his diabetes, he wasn’t taking care of it. He was letting himself hover in the 300s without concern. His parents didn’t know.

Then he told us about a serious seizure he had at a friend’s house during a sleepover. He described it as his wake-up call. After that, with the help and guidance of his friends at Camp Joslin, he started managing his diabetes well. He spoke about how much better he felt. That he didn’t even realize he had been feeling badly before because he didn’t know what it felt like to feel good. He proudly announced the A1C results he has maintained since that pivotal event. We were proud right along with him.

He wished that his parents had been more involved.

On this point the panel was unanimous:

They want to be in charge of their diabetes, but they don’t want to be alone. They want to know their parents care, but they don’t want to be judged or lectured. They want their diabetes to be theirs, but they want input and gentle guidance when they need it.

I think they called it “supervised autonomy”. Let diabetes be theirs, but don’t leave them alone to manage it all by themselves.

It’s hard to explain and possibly harder to execute.

They spoke about having weekly or daily meetings to review things. Parents and teen/young adult collaborating; providing time together to allow for discussion and troubleshooting.

Without judgment or consequences.

I had heard this before. My friend, Melinda, shared a similar story with me. This is how she worked things with her son, Michael. Melinda and Michael are an inspiration and I think of their example often. In fact, Melinda is the reason we went to family camp in the first place. Her high praise made it a “must do” experience.

I am so thankful to the people who make DCamp what it is. The facilities, activities and songs are great, but at the end of the day it’s the people that matter. If a permanent 6” by 8” tattoo on a young man’s upper arm doesn’t portray the impact that DCamp has on people living with diabetes, what does?

You can read the rest of my DCamp series posts here.

13 Replies to “DCamp Part 6 | The People”

  1. Great story Lorraine! Being diagnosed at 22, I never experienced diabetes as a kid. The D-Camp seems to be really good and I think it’s a huge benefit to young kids to be around others going through the same thing. Do they have the camps all over the country or is it just one place for everyone to travel to? Thanks for sharing!

    1. HI Tony, Yes there are DCamps all over the country, though not all DCamps are run the same. I have great confidence in the CBC. They run several programs throughout the year. Though most are in Mass., they also have a day program not too far from us in Greenwich, CT and also in NYC and LI.

  2. This is AWESOME. Love the use of “magical.” Now I’ve just got to be less of a white knuckled mom and just let him go. Not there yet, but your posts on camp are helping!

  3. Being a child with diabetes at one time and hearing the stories of Dcamp, I sincerely feel that I missed out on such an experience. However as an adult with diabetes, I am getting to enjoy and learn from other great experiences much like camp. So it’s never too late! Your portrayal of the camp counselors and people at camp is wonderful.

  4. I had the same thing happen to me as this counselor. I was 15, and my parents were very hands off. Looking back I wish they weren’t. I felt isolated and found myself not caring. Now I am in control. I wish I had gone to D camp too! Oh well… thank goddness for the DOC!

  5. What an awesome young man and what an amazing insight he was able to share.
    Bean is going to DCamp in a few weeks and although it’s scaring me a bit to send her off, I know it will be an amazing experience.
    Oh, and I love that not only did he have a bow on the top of his bandana, it was PINK, too!! 🙂

  6. Smiling!!! I can see Joe and Caleb “hamming” it up together. I had no idea that he has a knack for inappropriate humor…so does Joe! I am sure going to strongly suggest D Camp for Joe in the next couple of years. He was not ready this year. Perhaps next.

    Love the counselor. Very insightful stuff. Thank you.

  7. Lorraine-

    thank you so much for posting this. I was a bit shocked when a friend of mine sent me the link for this post; but I want you to know it made my day, week, month and year. We are gearing up to start Resident Summer Camp in the next few weeks and I can’t tell you enough how much it means to me to know that I had such a positive impact on your family. Its little things like this that make me come back every year…and get a 6″ by 8″ tattoo on my upper arm 🙂

    And to any nervous parents out there: i honestly believe diabetes camp is the best thing a child with diabetes can ever experience. I have told numerous people that diabetes is the best thing that ever happened to me and that I wouldn’t be me without it. I have camp to thank for that, one hundred and ten percent.

    Thank you so much again,
    Dylan (Mr. D)

  8. I so love this post. Thank you for sharing…I often worry about Ellie getting some D relationships rolling. She’s only 5 now so it’s a little difficult…but a BIG goal for me over the next couple of years! Loves!

  9. Jack will go to D camp next summer. After reading your posts, I wish there were a family camp near here.

    Your description “pushing-the-envelope-inappropriate Caleb” made me laugh. That’s Jack! 🙂 It’s hard not to laugh sometimes, isn’t it?!

    I appreciate the insight you gleaned from the panel. I can only hope that I will not hover, judge or attempt to control, but that I will be there to support in whatever capacity Jack wants or needs support. Honestly, though I hope I am able to take a similar approach with my non-D kids as well.

  10. What a great post about the counselors at diabetes camp, sounds wonderful. And luckily I have no issues with tattoos either 🙂 I will keep the term “supervised autonomy” close, I think it’s perfect in describing many aspects of parenting, too. That ability to be there without out hovering, to offer opinions and ideas with out telling how to do things specifically – truly something that takes much practice!
    Thanks for sharing all of this with us. I hope d camp is just ask exciting this summer for our family as it was the previous one.

  11. Loraine, thanks for posting this great article talking about the true magic that occurs at DCamp. I actually know Dylan from several years ago as he was one of our great campers when I served in a leadership role at the camp. I attended camp for 43 years. Dylan is absolutely awesome as are the other young people and professionals who dedicate their time to supporting, encouraging, educating, and empowering great young people so that they come away from the programs far better equipped to meet the challenges of life while at the same time still balancing their diabetes!
    To the staff and campers at the Clara Barton and Joslin camps you are all truly outstanding! To all campers and staff throughout the world attending diabetes this camps this summer; enjoy and learn from each other, the positive role models at camp and the incredibly gifted medical teams that so often donate their time to be with you!

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