Week 2 of the Youth Diabetes Camp – Overall Youth Experience

By the end of the second week of the Youth Diabetes Sports Camp, the kids have made new friendships and greatly improved their skills in sports. York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit interviewed kids with diabetes about some of their impressions and experiences at camp.

The children with Type 1 greatly appreciate the opportunities that they are given at this camp. Overwhelmingly, the kids admire the unique nature of the camp, the first sports camp of its kind that brings together kids and adolescents with diabetes with diabetes councilors and varsity level coaches. Most importantly, they get to meet other kids with diabetes and share their challenges as well as their experience managing their condition. Many of the kids said that prior to attending this camp they had not met very many young people with their condition who are so interested in sports. At this camp, there were approximately 30 kids and adolescents with diabetes, there were counselors who have diabetes, as well as guest speakers who excel despite their disease.

Among the guest speakers at the diabetes camp was Chris Jarvis, a prominent Olympic rower and Pan Am gold medalist with type 1. Chris talked about the “highs” and “lows” while being on the Canadian National rowing team and competing in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Prior to joining the kids to play their respective sports, Mr. Jarvis spoke to the young campers about living with diabetes and overcoming numerous challenges including challenges with his glucose control and facing losses in competition. Chris spoke about the importance of “team” support in helping to facilitate his success both on and off the boat. Overall, the kids found their camp experience to be inspiring. The goal was to show that having diabetes should not hinder anyone from pursuing a career in competitive sports. And that is something that the kids certainly understood and appreciated by the end of camp.

Of course, there is also the fun factor. The kids were happy to share excitement and laughter while becoming more proficient in their favorite sport. The children were very fond of the camp counselors. They were happy to get excellent instruction from some of York’s finest varsity athletes. However, counselors were more than just the kids’ coaches. They made sure to befriend them as well and did a great job connecting on the kids’ level, making their camp experience that much more enjoyable.

The most amazing thing about this camp is the fact that, while the youth with diabetes had an overwhelmingly positive experience, they also contributed to valuable research on how sports and exercise affect glucose control and how exercise can help manage diabetes and improve quality of life. This is a prime example of knowledge mobilization and a bi-directional flow of knowledge. The kids learned new strategies on managing their diabetes while Dr. Riddell gets valuable data for his research on exercise and diabetes.

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