Dylan Stanfa, 7, of Toledo plays on a tree during Camp Little Shots, a camp at Olander Park for children ages 6 to 9 with diabetes.
Dylan Stanfa spent part of his morning playing games and looking forward to a swim at Sylvania's Olander Park.
But when snack time rolled around at Camp Little Shots Tuesday, the 7-year-old Toledo boy and other campers didn't just begin noshing.
They first had to check their blood sugar, a routine performed several times a day by youngsters with Type 1 diabetes even though most wear insulin pumps to keep glucose levels more stable.
For nearly 20 years, Diabetes Youth Services has offered Camp Little Shots for children ages 6 to 9 with juvenile diabetes, a disease where the body does not produce insulin.
Based in Nederhouser Community Hall at Olander Park, this year's camp has 40 participants from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan spending the week doing typical day camp activities, but also learning how to count carbohydrates to control blood sugar levels and otherwise manage diabetes.
"We just run around and have fun," said Blake Cabrera, a 7-year-old from Detroit who was dancing on a picnic table Tuesday . "It is a pretty fun camp."
Added Blake, who was found to have diabetes when he was 1 1/2 years old: "We learn how to eat and all kinds of stuff about diabetes."
Tuesday, campers heard an inspirational speech from Andy Holder, an athletic 43-year-old Philadelphia father of two.
After he learned seven years ago that he has Type 1 diabetes, Mr. Holder decided to compete in triathalons despite not knowing how to swim -- and having to check his blood sugar 70 to 80 times during an Ironman event that includes swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running a full marathon.
"Diabetes should not only not limit your life, but it should be a spark to do extraordinary things," Mr. Holder, national spokesman for Good Neighbor Pharmacy, told campers.
"There's nothing you can't accomplish."
Andy Holder, a triathlete who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 36, talks to teh campers at Olander Park in Sylvania.
Athletes such as Mr. Holder and camp volunteers such as Ken Lowery, a Sandusky nurse who learned he has Type 1 diabetes when he was 11, are good role models for campers, said Mary Harrell, program director for Diabetes Youth Services.
The organization also runs Camp Big Shots in June for 10 to 15-year-olds with diabetes at Camp Libbey in Defiance.
Showing children other peers have diabetes and being positive about managing the disease are among the goals of Camp Little Shots, Ms. Harrell said.
"This isn't going to go away," she said. "It's something they have to live with for the rest of their lives."
Mr. Lowery said advances in technology, such as pager-sized insulin pumps that fit in a pocket, have made managing diabetes easier.
More insurance companies cover insulin pumps, which became more common the last five years, he said.
Camp Little Shots has about 45 volunteers, many of whom have Type 1 diabetes. Among them is 19-year-old Liz Gildea of Sylvania, who grew up going to Diabetes Youth Services camps, played volleyball for eight years, graduated from Northview High School, and will be a sophomore at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich.
Miss Gildea said she viewed her camp counselors as role models, and now it's her turn to show youngsters they can live with diabetes.
"It's a part of you -- it's a part of your life," she said. "It never stopped me once."
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6087.
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