For most kids, summer camp requires no more effort than packing a suitcase and remembering to slap on some sunscreen. But for kids with Type 1 diabetes, going away to camp can be a bit more complicated.
That’s why, in the early 1950s, the Canadian Diabetes Association launched camps specifically created for children with type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body to control the level of glucose in your blood.
This past July, Gordon Ly, a fifth year student in our Dietetics program, spun his passion for food and health and his love of working with kids into an unforgettable volunteer experience at Camp Kakhamela in Gibsons, BC. Founded in 1962, the sleep-away camp is one of 12 located across the country.
“At Camp Kakhamela, the kids are able to have regular camp experiences while being taken care of by a full medical team,” said Ly. “They learn about diabetes management in a safe and fun environment.”
As part of the four person dietetics team, Ly helped to prepare snacks, review menus, and list the carb counting on menu boards so when the campers tested their blood, they knew how much insulin to use.
Ly came across the Canadian Diabetes Association’s posting for nutrition volunteers in 2012 on the FNH volunteer list serve and thought it would be a fun experience. And fun it was. Not only did he get to put his professional skills to use, but in his downtime, he was able to take advantage of camp activities like sailing and kayaking.
He also enjoyed interacting with the camp’s medical staff. “There was a lot of emphasis on inter-professional care,” he said. “It was great to hear about how the doctors, nurses and other dietitians work with diabetes in practice.”
The experience helped him during his fourth year in the Dietetics program. “By the time we reached the section on diabetes, I was already an expert and could apply what I had learned at camp.”
Ly hopes to return to Camp Kakhamela in 2014, after he completes his practicum at Royal Columbian Hospital in New West next June. “I would love to do it again,” he said.