I started going to sleep-away camp when I was six years old. My older sister was going and there was no way I was going to be left behind. That was the first of 8 years of summer spent away from home. Summer camp gave me independence, confidence and what we know call "life experience." (I will not be blogging about what much of that means any time soon!)
This summer was set to be a big one for my kids. We signed up my seven year old daughter for her first taste of sleep-away camp. Ten days – just a little sample. My four year old was excited for a few days of diabetes camp. The rest of the summer was set up as usual – my husband and I both work so we've been dong full day programs when school's out all along. We are camp experts.
Almost immediately, though, we hit a road block. Counselors arriving at Lea's camp to set up and get ready started getting sick. By the third day, more than a dozen had crowded the infirmary. The health department declined to test for it, but said it was pretty clear it was H1N1 – swine flu. They had to cancel the whole first month of camp, including Lea's session. Ouch.
(Quick sidebar on that. I'm on Twitter and I posted about the cancellation. CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller saw the post and sent it along to CBS news. The network did a story, which you can see here. It's not about our camp or us but apparently we were the spark. You can follow me and Mark on Twitter, if you so wish, at www.twitter.com/staceysimms and www.twitter.com/markknoller. Mark is by far my favorite person to follow on Twitter and if you read him for a day you'll see why.)
She was so disappointed. But after the tears (and the promise of a sleep-over with a friend) she settled down. We talked about other local day camps and mapped out the rest of the summer. Soon after, the camp sent out a package with a t-shirt and bandanna and a nice note for the kids who had to miss. That was nice and really made her smile.
Her little brother, on the other hand, had the time of his life. Camp Kudos is a 3-day camp put on by the great people at Pediatric Endocrinology Diabetes Specialists in Charlotte. The doctors and nurses have done this for the past 15 years and it's wonderful. The kids get a real day camp experience with sports and arts & crafts, but everyone there has type 1 diabetes. It's amazing.
Many children at Camp Kudos have never spent a full day away from their parents. Others, like Benny, don't spend much time if any with other children with diabetes. He loved it. His counselor, Josh, was a young guy, a Charlotte fire fighter with type 1. Benny just loved him (what 4 year old wouldn't?).
I was excited because Benny now wears his medic-alert bracelet. Boy, has that been a struggle. I wish I'd slapped it on him when he was 23 months old and first diagnosed. He just has not like the way it feels, or something. We just told him he couldn't go to camp without it. Done. And he hasn't taken it off since.
The only snag came a few days after Camp Kudos ended. Benny got very upset with us. He insisted camp was still going on without him. It took a while (and a lot of tears) but we finally convinced him that it was just three days and we would never, ever let them have Camp Kudos again without him. So thank you Beth Theiling and Kristi McDermott and all the doctors, nurses and counselors. We'll be back next year!
The rest of the summer will be regular day camps and then back to school August 25th. Hard to believe we'll soon be in the home stretch of summer. I do hope Lea will decide to try sleep-away camp again next summer and that Benny will go to the diabetes sleep-away camp they offer for kids older than 7.
Summer camp was wonderful for me. I only stopped when I was 15 and decided I was getting too old. My mom gave me the choice to go back to camp or get a job ('you're not going to sit around the house all summer!"). So I went to work and that was that was the beginning of a whole different adventure!