NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Summer camp season may be over, but some children at a local day camp may have had a life-changing experience.
Camaraderie comes easily for the kids at Camp Freedom. They range in age from 7 to 14 and all have Type 1 diabetes.
The camp is a one-week program run through Weill Cornell. It’s part of the 92nd Street Y camp program.
Emily Coppedge is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Weill Cornell Medicine and program director of Camp Freedom.
“A lot of kids aren’t able to go to camp because there’s no nursing staff that will take on diabetes,” she said.
Coppedge herself has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 31 years.
“We can take on their diabetes for them and they can have fun. We watch their receivers so we can see where their blood sugars are going,” she said.
The campers are insulin dependent and have sensors that monitor their glucose levels. Cell phones work as receivers.
A medical staff of four monitors the kids at all times. All have insulin pumps or get injections.
Parents are relieved to have a medically secure place to send their kids for a week of just fun.
“They really celebrate what their glucose is and what they need to do. They’re very open and free in the camp about it,” said Sherri Abrahamson, the mother of 8-year-old camper Ava Abrahamson.
“To have some other girls that know what it feels like to be wearing monitors on your body and be constantly in the nurse’s office, just the camaraderie is great,” said Melanie Lavelle, the mother of 10-year-old camper Alessandra Beeby.
The kids couldn’t agree more.
“It makes me feel way more comfortable here ’cause I know everybody has to go through the same thing,” Ava said.
“We don’t feel, like, different. We don’t feel, like, weird. We actually feel accepted here,” 10-year-old Natalie Aguire said.
“I don’t have to worry about anything. They have the monitors. They stay near us,” Alessandra said. “I felt just like a normal kid.”
The kids also learn resilience at Camp Freedom, which is essential because there will likely be some tough times for all diabetics while they await the cure that many researchers say will come in their lifetime.
The kids who attend the camp are part of Weill Cornell Medicine’s pediatric diabetes program. There is no charge for the camp.