Camp Kakhamela lets kids be kids

Abby Gordon hugs little sister Noelle Gordon at Camp Kakhamela, a camp for kids living with type 1 diabetes. Abby, a type 1 diabetic enjoys camp with her family while learning how to manage her disease.

ALLIE NICHOL/STAFF WRITER

For a majority of kids, summer camp can be a great experience. But for some, it can be a challenge, and children living with Type 1 diabetes are among that group.

Enter Camp Kakhamela — a unique camp that provides children seven to 16 with the tools needed to manage their diabetes while enabling them to have fun in a safe environment.

“It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else,” said camp co-ordinator Jeff Chang. “For these kids, it’s about coming to camp to enjoy camp and know their diabetes is being managed by the doctors and nurses.”

Located near Gibsons, the camp is facilitated by the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). Skilled health care professionals are on staff to monitor the kids while teaching them how to self-manage their disease. They also learn about nutrition and how to stay healthy by maintaining an active lifestyle.

“The disease management is very complicated,” said Chang, referring to the food intake and insulin component. “It’s important for campers to understand the balance.”

In addition to learning about management, kids get the chance to discuss the disease amongst each other, providing a sense of understanding they may not have received with unaffected kids. Importantly, the kids get to have fun.

“The major thing is that the activities don’t differ from those of regular kids,” Chang said.

“They do all the same activities; they get to participate in everything. With that medical side taken care of, there’s no handicap involved in having diabetes in terms of being able to enjoy camp.”

Nine-year-old Abby Gordon of Tsawwassen is currently attending the family portion of Camp Kakhamela. Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago has not stopped her from having a good time.

“The camp is really fun. You get to choose what you want to do, like kayaking or crafts or even sailing and canoeing and all that fun stuff,” said Abby enthusiastically.

When asked about the camp’s learning aspect, Abby said it can be hard, but she is learning a lot.

“It’s nice just to know there is somebody else like you,” said Abby.

Abby’s mother Sue Gordon said the camp is great not only for the kids, but also for the parents and helping them seek support.

“We’re sharing our tips and tricks and we’re learning tips and tricks from other parents. It’s nice to be in the company of others that can relate,” said Gordon, who added how beautiful the Sunshine Coast is to visit.

While the cost for Camp Kakhamela can be as much as $1,900 per child, the CDA offers a “campership” subsidy to families that cannot pay the full camp fee. Fundraising and donations enable the CDA to remain committed to making ensuring no child it turned away from the camp.

For more information, visit the CDA website at http://www.diabetes.ca.

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