Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Wisdom for Summer Camps*: A Guide to Evolving Through Structures Found At Your Favorite Summer Camp.
It’s a four-hour drive through the central part of California, turning east on highway 180 and on up into the mountains to get to summer camp. It’s a camp that I loved as a kid. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My doctor recommended a diabetes camp where I could learn to manage my diabetes amongst my peers and with adults thriving and living with the condition. Camp is staffed with a medical team 24/7, so access to care is at the tip of your finger. I was nervous about going that first year. My grandmother drove me up, dropped me off, and left me alone with a sea of new faces. I was one of the first to arrive, so I had to hang out with the counselors as we waited for the arrival of other kids. I remember them taking me down to the baseball field, fresh with dry dirt, and inviting me to play ball with them. Oops. Sports weren’t my thing. I couldn’t even tell you how it was played. They figured that out quickly and opted to toss the ball back and forth with me for an hour before the other campers arrived.
When they did arrive, I knew instantly which girl was going to be my best friend. Kristy. She had brown curly hair and a massive smile on her face. We hit it off immediately, selected beds next to each other, and honestly, I can’t tell you any other campers’ names. Kristy and I spent all our time together. We made friendship bracelets for each other, sculpted clay pinch pots to exchange, and snuck sugar cubes from our counselors’ low supplies*.
I spent three years as a camper before returning as a counselor when I was 19 years old. My summers as a camp counselor include some of my most cherished and favorite life memories. Having camp in my young adult life provided me a community of peers and medical practitioners that taught me how to live an adult life with diabetes. I learned how to drink alcohol and manage my insulin, prep for travel, manage stress, manage sex and diabetes, and navigate insurance and health care systems. There was a lot to learn. Camp gave me access to a variety of wisdom and expertise but, most importantly, a community of supportive people who live with Type 1, facing the same daily challenges and exhaustion.