A Day at Camp Sweeney
The day begins early. At 7am, campers are awakened for their first of six to seven daily blood tests, after which they perform assigned job responsibilities, such as making their beds and cleaning their cabins.
At 7:45am, they administer the day's first insulin injection or bolus.
At 8:15am, they go to the dining room for breakfast. Each child sits at an assigned table, and each receives a meal prepared according to individual dietary requirements. This closely ordered approach reinforces the sense of discipline and structure that is necessary for successfully managing diabetes.
After breakfast, campers participate in recreational activities, each week choosing five from among the 30+ that are offered. Classes are taught by certified instructors who emphasize achievement and excellence, building self-esteem and confidence along the way.
After another blood test and lunch, campers spend 75 minutes in a group activity we call "family time" because it's led by the campers' assigned big "brother" or "sister" counselor. It's a time we set aside for campers to learn more about themselves and one another. Goals are discussed and agreed upon, and letters are written to fellow campers, as well as to themselves, which are kept and mailed at various times throughout the year. Each letter is a reminder of the support provided by their Camp Sweeney family.
Medical education classes come next, followed by recreational and skill-building activities. The medical education classes instruct the children in the in-depth implications of their disease, helping them fully understand the medical ramifications and requirements for a healthy life style both now and in the future. Every effort is made to present instruction on the educational levels of each group of campers.
At 5 pm, there is another blood test, just before dinner. Dinner is followed by personal time. From 8 pm to 11 pm each evening, campers enjoy hayrides, cookouts, and other recreational activities, always focusing on how to keep food, insulin, and exertion levels in balance.
The final blood test of the day is performed just before bedtime at 11 pm. Medical personnel are on duty 24 hours a day. During the night, rounds are made four times to check the children for signs and symptoms of low-blood sugar levels, perform additional blood tests and provide needed care.
Standing out with special emphasis are days like the end of session awards ceremony. It is a unique time of fellowship, remembrance, and hope. During the ceremony outstanding campers - selected by their peers - are recognized. Winners receive the Code of Living medallion, honoring their achievements in mastering the skills they have acquired at camp.
The coveted award is much more than a camp souvenir; it's a daily reminder, throughout the year, of the special bonds that have been formed. The enormous challenges of managing diabetes carry with them the constant threat of despair and resignation. The Code of Living ceremony recognizes those whose triumphs over diabetes truly qualify them as exemplary leaders.
In every way, though, all who attend Camp Sweeney leave as winners, because all have discovered a source of inner strength - strength they may draw on to gain control over their lives.
When they leave to return home, campers take with them a special sense of assurance. They have come to understand that while they face special challenges, they are also equipped to deal with them. And most of all, they won't be alone.