Every November, we raise awareness around a disease millions of people around the world are living with every single day: diabetes. While the majority of people with diabetes have Type 2, many others are living with Type 1. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. A diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes means your pancreas is no longer capable of producing insulin.
To help Montana kids living with diabetes, Camp Montana was founded in 2002. The week-long summer camp has become a lifeline for children with diabetes to develop the critical skills needed to thrive while managing this disease.
Luke Altenhofen, a PA-C in Holy Rosary’s emergency department, has been a Senior Medical Staff Counselor as well as a Camp Planning Committee member for the past four years.
“This past summer we hosted 130 kids with Type 1 diabetes, and it was our best year yet!” he said. “Getting to educate and prepare these kids for life with diabetes is very fulfilling, and it makes the week-long effort more than worthwhile. We see a variety of kids raning from those who were just diagnosed to being completely self-sufficient and thriving. Interacting with them and seeing the challenges they overcome on a daily basis leaves me without words. I learn something new every year, and I also gain more respect for the campers and their families for conquering Diabetes. Diabetes is a very difficult disease to manage, but the kids make it look effortless.”
In addition to learning how to manage their diabetes, attending summer camp helps children develop social skills, self-respect and life-long friendships. The camp gives kids the opportunity to meet other kids just like them while fostering independence, building self-confidence and gaining an awareness of a healthy lifestyle through education, nutrition, exercise, emotional well-being and glucose control.
The camp staff manage the campers’ blood sugars, provide all nutrition, plan various activities throughout the day, and generally keep them busy from sun-up to sun-down. The camp includes a rafting trip down the Yellowstone, a day hike in to the Beartooth Mountains, as well as camp activities like a zip line, rock wall, pond, archery, and arts and crafts.
“This summer was my first year as a medical staff counselor at Camp Montana and the experience was incredible. The camp provided an opportunity to learn from some amazing kids about what their life with type 1 diabetes was like, beyond just the medical management of this disease,” explained Holy Rosary internal medicine and pediatric physician, Dr. Lance Robbins. “They taught me about how this disease affects their everyday lives – from how their activity affects it to troubleshooting problems with their pumps and everything in-between. This camp is life-changing for these kids and I am already looking forward to helping out again next year!”
The camp has a website (http://www.diabetes.org/adacampmontana) and a Facebook page (Montana Diabetes Youth Retreat). Camp dates for summer 2019 have not yet been set.