Please note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, camp availability may vary.
Attending summer camp for the first time is a big decision for kids with type 1 diabetes — their parents, too. There are a lot of questions to ask before making the choice to go. While parents of kids with type 1 diabetes have the same camp questions that all parents have, they also have many more health-related concerns to think about. Will my child be able to check his or her blood sugar regularly? Can the staff handle diabetes-related emergencies? Is summer camp even a good idea for my child?
With a long history behind them (the first summer camp created specifically for kids with type 1 diabetes opened in 1925), a well-run, accredited camp is a great option for parents looking to give kids an experience they won’t forget, all the while making connections with other kids going through the same thing. In fact, attending may even be good for kids’ health. A three-year study conducted by the American Diabetes Association had some interesting findings.
The study’s results were released in 2015. Its findings included:
- 10% of campers studied reported an increase in confidence to manage their diabetes following camp.
- 7% of campers reported a decrease in diabetes-related anger.
- 6% of campers reported a decrease in diabetes-related sadness.
- 11% of campers reported an increase in overall knowledge of proper diabetes management.
- Researchers also found a 9% increase in the number of children who knew how to figure out a correct insulin dose.
Now, there are hundreds of camps to choose from along with many resources available to help you find the right one. From weekend only events, to day camps to overnight camps, (and even one camp geared toward adults with type 1 diabetes) there are many options to choose from. Below are some camps from around the United States to jump-start your search, complete with a brief blurb from the camp itself.
Type 1 Diabetes Summer Camps
Diabetes Camping and Educational Services, Inc., is committed to providing a safe, educational and healthy camping experience to all children and families. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains of California, Camp Conrad Chinnock offers recreational, social and educational opportunities for youth and families with diabetes. Campers are taught diabetes self-management skills in a fun, interactive and safe environment. A primary focus of Diabetes Camping and Educational Services is providing residential camping experiences for youth with type 1 diabetes, insulin-dependent diabetes and their families at Camp Conrad Chinnock. Whether attending a youth or family camp, a comprehensive educational program provides training in formal and casual settings to teach children how to manage their medication, eat properly and integrate physical activity into their lifestyle.
Designed for adults with type 1 diabetes, this Canadian-based Connected in Motion program works to build and support communities of active and well-informed adults who are engaged in their diabetes self-management. The program does this by offering adventures and experiences to connect individuals and provide a unique format for learning. Events range from day, weekend and even 10-day experiences. Choose from a range of options from canoeing, white-water rafting and hiking.
These camps provide a fun, safe, educational and diabetes-friendly environment for children with type 1 diabetes and their families where youth gain the confidence, skills and knowledge to achieve their full potential.
Camp Kudzu, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019, is a nonprofit organization serving children and teens living with type 1 diabetes. The life-altering diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can be isolating and overwhelming — adding new and critical things to a child’s daily routine. Day-to-day diabetes management requires the entire family, from checking blood sugar to counting carbohydrates, dosing insulin and adjusting for physical activity. Camp Kudzu supports over 840 children, teens and families by providing camping experiences and educational opportunities at various camps in Georgia.
Kiki’s Kids Camp is a four-day summer camp for youth between the ages of 6 to 12 who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Campers enjoy activities such as swimming, sports and crafts while learning about nutrition, diabetes management, independence and self-discipline from trained clinicians and volunteers. Teens ages 13 to 17 who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can attend as junior counselors/counselors-in-training. Kiki’s Kids Camp is funded by planned gift from the estate of the late Angelique (Kiki) Petropole, a Rome, Georgia pediatric nurse who had diabetes. The gift continues to fund the camp and the purchase of diabetes supplies for children in need.
Camp Hodia provides educational camps and programs for youth with type 1 diabetes regardless of their ability to pay. Each camper’s diabetes management plan is reviewed before camp and at registration. Every effort is made to adhere to this plan and the wishes of the family and their physician. At the request of parents or campers, the camp medical staff will evaluate the diabetes plan and make suggestions for better control. In general, Camp Hodia recommends tight control by frequent testing, carbohydrate counting, multiple insulin injections and avoidance of low blood sugars.
The Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana (DYFI) is a local 501c3 nonprofit with a mission and passion to educate, encourage and empower children living with type 1 diabetes, while providing support to their families. It serves hundreds of youth every year through the residential summer camp, day camp, family and teen weekends, ambassador program, and other outreach opportunities. The camp is located in Noblesville; however, it serves the entire state of Indiana.
This camp’s mission is to work with anyone with type 1 diabetes to set up programs focused on being active while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good blood glucose control. It provides a team of medical professionals and successful athletes with type 1 diabetes with each program. The athletes serve as role models, sharing their successful strategies, challenges and inspirations with campers. They work together to empower each participant and help them believe and realize they can do anything they want with diabetes.
The Jack Rua Camp for Children with Diabetes is a place where youth with diabetes, ages 5 to 14, their siblings, and their friends benefit from hands-on learning experiences in type 1 diabetes management and support within a fun and welcoming environment. Its mission is to foster friendships among children with diabetes, their siblings and friends through a safe, active program while enabling them to learn about and face the common challenges of diabetes.
Camp Sweet Life Adventures, Inc., is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 2010. Camp Sweet Life was organized in order to provide youth with type 1 diabetes in Southern Minnesota an opportunity to connect with other kids with type 1 diabetes, learn how to take better care of themselves, and have fun in a carefree summer camp environment. The Camp Sweet Life organizers originally met only to plan a camp, but after the first camp in 2010 they realized the needs of this community and the possibilities for improving the lives of kids with type 1 diabetes were so much greater. Thus began the development of a mission, goals and strategic plan to make Camp Sweet Life Adventures a sustainable and vital organization for the type 1 diabetes community in Southern Minnesota.
Diabetes camps are a special time for children and youth to enjoy all the wonders and excitement of camp life. Children and youth with type 1 diabetes can enjoy all of the fun of summer camp while learning more about living with diabetes. One of the great things for the camper is that living with diabetes is the norm for the week, so everyone counts carbs, checks blood sugars and tries to balance food, insulin, exercise and loads of fun. Campers are encouraged to develop age-appropriate responsibilities for maintaining their diabetes. A resident physician, several nurses, a licensed dietitian and other qualified support staff are all on hand.
Established in 1958, Stillwater, New Jersey’s Camp Nejeda provides all kinds of programming for individuals living with type 1 diabetes. In addition to its eight-week sleep-away camp for children with type 1 diabetes, the camp offers a weekend boot camp for adults over the age of 21 who have type 1 diabetes. The boot camp provides camp goers a balance of relaxation, fun, connection and education. Zip lining and boating are just a few activities that are available between informative and interactive lectures on diabetes self-management.
Camp Needles in the Pines, located in Eastern North Carolina, is a one-week residential camp for children with type 1 diabetes ages 8 to 14 years. Activities include swimming, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, archery, crafts, rifle range, tenting and improved self-help skills.
Gales Creek Camp is a place where children and teenagers with type 1 diabetes from all over the Pacific Northwest connect with other kids living with the same challenges. Its goal is to help each child grow toward living an active, independent life. In addition to having a traditional summer camp experience filled with friends, running, swimming, hiking, field games, arts, drama, campfires and all-around summer fun, Gales Creek Campers learn some of the self-care habits that will help them grow into healthy adults. They may learn to test themselves and give injections, and how food and exercise are linked to insulin. They may learn how sports, illness and stress interact with diabetes.
T1D Buddy Camp is the primary program of Type 1 Oregon, a nonprofit formed in early 2018 to support the kids, teens and families in the type 1 diabetes community with programs and outreach. Originally it was founded in 2014 as On Belay Type 1 Diabetes Camp, with Camp Tamarack’s On Belay TY Foundation as its fiscal sponsor. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for information on current activities.
This camp is for teen athletes with type 1 diabetes and their parents. This camp provides an opportunity to learn clinical and mental skills and fitness strategies from Dr. Matthew Corcoran. He and his team of experts will help teen athletes manage their type 1 diabetes during sports and help them take their performance to the next level. Teens and parents will share, learn and receive support from experts and from their peers who are facing similar challenges and questions. Please note: Teens under 18 must attend with at least one parent or guardian.
Diabetes Incorporated provides a diabetes camp for families of children with diabetes. The diabetes family camp is held annually at Outlaw Ranch in the southern Black Hills over a three-day period. Those living with type 1 diabetes know how difficult it is to create a balance in everyday life; a perfect harmony between carbohydrates eaten, insulin injected, physical activity, stress, hormones, etc. The campers participate in educational sessions, outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, geo-caching, horseback riding and more. Several medical professionals volunteer their assistance and consultation for the camp duration. Camp is an excellent opportunity for fun activities, family learning about diabetes, and networking with health professionals and other families.
Camp Leo is the only overnight camp in western Washington exclusively dedicated to children with type 1 diabetes. The camp has years of experience working with diabetes, and many of the staff have diabetes themselves. Staff knows on a first-hand basis how difficult it can be growing up with a disease that sometimes separates us. It can be really hard to find a community to help kids and young adults develop and overcome the challenges of living with type 1 diabetes. At this camp, diabetes becomes the norm, not the exception.
A week-long day camp in July, for children ages 4 to 13, with type 1 diabetes. Panther Day Camp will be held at Camp McCullough in Covington. The camp experience allows children with type 1 diabetes to meet other children with diabetes and talk with adults who have grown up with diabetes. While diabetes education is an important part of Panther Day Camp, there is an emphasis on having fun, building friendships and sharing common concerns.