Teen works to save summer camp for kids with diabetes

April 11, 2017: A 16-year-old with Type 1 diabetes is trying to save a summer camp that means so much to her.

Natalie Miller's Type 1 diabetes requires constant care: five blood sugar tests a day, an insulin pump, counting carbohydrates and the list goes on.
 
While the Powell High School junior has learned to deal with the pain and management of the medical treatments, she remembers when diabetes made her feel like an outcast.
 
"It definitely took a toll on my self-confidence for a while. I always feel weird, even now, when my pump will go off in class and every one will turn around and look at me," explained Miller, 16.
 
Camp Cure is a place where she always feels accepted. Every summer, East Tennessee Children's Hospital put on the week-long day camp exclusively for kids dealing with diabetes. 
 
Even after Miller aged out of the camp, she returned as a volunteer counselor.
 
"For me, it's where I can go and be with people who understand what it's like to get up at three in the morning with low blood sugar. Or understand what it's like to be irritable because you're blood sugar is high," Miller said.
 
This year, Children's Hospital said it made the decision to close Camp Cure after four months of consideration.
 
"When we were really examining it, we did not have the finances to support it this year," said Hella Ewing, Children's Hospital VP of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer.
 
Camp Cure costs the hospital about $30,000 every year and is the hospital's only summer camp that does not have a financial endowment to cover costs.  
 
Children's two other camps for children with disabilities and medical disorders, Donald M. Gally Summer Camp and Camp Eagle's Nest, have sustainable philanthropic support. 
 
"We thought we would just take a step back, re-energize the camp, see what potential support we might be able to gain from the community and hope we can do it again next year," Ewing said.
 
Natalie Miller turned her disappointment from the news into action. She wrote a plea to the community to help bring back the camp next year and shared it on social media. 

Donors who would like to explore ways to continue this community service should contact Children’s Hospital Development Office at 865-541-8441.

Read Natalie Miller's full letter below:
 
"Hi, I really hope that I can get the word out, and this may be my only outlet! Save Camp Cure! Camp Cure is a day camp for diabetic children, which is a week in June or July, held at the Kiwanis Fresh Air Camp in Knoxville. Campers who attend are charged a minimal fee to come to camp, which covers the costs of medical supplies, food, and fees from Kiwanis. It is donation based, and this summer is the first summer in fourteen years that we cannot have camp this year because of a lack of donation funds! We need your help to bring these little superheroes some fun this summer where they feel like they fit in.

Let me give you a bit of background information, so you can see why this summer camp is worth the donations.
My name is Natalie Miller, I'm sixteen and I've been Type 1 Diabetic for thirteen years this coming December. I was diagnosed at the age of 4, and I attended Camp Cure from the time I was five until age 12 (because that's the age limit for campers! Of course, you can become a junior staff member once you turn 13). Camp Cure was one of the only places where I felt like I fit in. The thing was—and still is—that no one understood me unless they had diabetes as well, which in Powell, is seldom and far between. Everyone understood me there, and knew the pain of having to poke my finger 4-5 times a day, take shots every time I ate and having to count carbs and measure out my food. They understand what it's like to wake up with a low blood sugar and having to muster up the energy to get up and check your blood glucose, or it being a high BG with uncontrolled thirst, urination and headaches. To say that Camp Cure was a big impact on me is an understatement; they took part in molding me into who I am today.

With that being said, we staff members always want to create a good environment for these children and to have fun and show that no disease would slow us down! These kids look up to us, and think "Wow! You can be a teenager with diabetes!" (Yes, they really say that!! Also, our staff are mainly diabetics, trained professionals... we have a team of nurses!) and they look up to us as role models, and trust that we will take great care of them and have lots of fun with them as well. At Camp Cure, we see a lot of firsts: A first finger stick, or a first insulin shot or changing a pump site, and we make a big deal about it as well, as it's such a milestone! Needles and hospital rooms and doctors are intimidating, even for me, and especially for these kids. It's such an honor to be able to witness their face once they realized that they've done something so significant on their own.
This camp is so important to me, and lots of other people and kids. Don't let this year be any different from the last. We want to see new smiling faces, and we want to make an impact on these camper's lives. I know how much of a difference they made for me, and I want all of the T1D kids to know that they aren't alone in what they're going through, and we always welcome them with open arms.

Be sure to contact East Tennessee Children's Hospital for more information on how you can get involved with Camp Cure, and how you can chip in to help. Thank you!"

 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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