Creekside Quilts is a proud supporter of Gales Creek Camp for children with type 1 diabetes. Since I have type 1 diabetes myself and attended Gales Creek Camp as a child many years ago, I can tell you from a first hand experience what this camp did for me and how it changed my life. I have linked a few websites at the bottom of this page so you can find out more about Type 1 Diabetes, Gales Creek Camp, what the camp does for children with diabetes and for their families, and how you can get involved. But first I’d like to tell you about my personal experience with diabetes and what it was like to attend the camp as a child.
I don’t know what life is like without diabetes. This means a life full of shots, blood tests, ups and downs, constant balancing, attention to food, exercise, stress, weather conditions, feelings, and a lot of planning ahead. Constantly. It never stops when I’m sleeping, driving, working, relaxing…24/7 diabetes constantly impacts my life. If you think it’s only a matter of counting carbs and doing the right amount of insulin, think again. My body has a mind of it’s own and sometimes resists the insulin I give it or it decides to absorb it faster than normal, creating inadvertent highs and lows. I have to guess at how many carbs I’m taking in when eating when out at a restaurant or how much to reduce my insulin for physical activities. An ever-changing blood sugar affects mood, emotions, energy levels, physical well being, can disrupt life at the most inconvenient times, as well as cause irreversible long term damage such as increased risk of heart disease and lost of eye sight or limbs. Diabetes is very serious and that’s why it’s so important to support the kids who attend GCC, their families, and the foundation itself. For some of these kids, it’s their only education about diabetes they will receive their entire childhood. This can drastically help set them up to be successful in life despite their challenges like it did for me when was at camp years ago.
My recollection of Gales Creeks Camp (GCC for short) bears some of the very best memories of my childhood. Nothing else really even comes close. For one week every year I got to be around other kids my age who had the same struggles I had and we all understood each other. We all just fit together like a marvelous puzzle; individually significant and accepted. No more explaining what diabetes was to those around me every time I got low blood sugar. In public grade school, many kids avoided me like the plague since they thought that diabetes was a spreadable disease that they could catch. On occasion I was bullied for getting to leave class to go eat something during a low blood sugar episode which made other kids resent me. But at camp, it was the opposite! Nurses, doctors and counselors (many who were also diabetic themselves) were all understanding and knew in a split second exactly what to do when things happened. Do you remember a time when you felt like you truly belonged to a group of people that you could just be your real self around regardless of any ailments? That’s how I felt at GCC. All of my peers knew exactly what it was like to live with diabetes everyday because we all experienced the same highs and lows, side effects, and the perpetual balancing act of insulin with food. We’ve all been there together when we are forced awake at 3am by low blood sugar to eat something when we’re not hungry, exhausted, and confused because now our insulin decides to start working.
The camp not only provides a welcome break for parents with kids who have Type 1 Diabetes (or T1D) but it also educates the kids at the same time. When I was at camp, we met with the dietitian, learned about counting sugars and carbs and how to balance that with insulin and physical activity. We also made long lasting friendships with other diabetics. Much of this critical education serves as a vital life skill that just isn’t found readily anywhere else. And it was totally fun and exciting! There were hikes in the creek, hikes to the Bubble Gum Tree (a camp legend where a special tree in the forest grew sugar free bubble gum on it’s branches for the campers), swimming, arts & crafts, movie nights, dance parties, all kinds of sports, free time, letters from home, campfire, and all while surrounded by a caring, compassionate, and trained crew of counselors, nurses, and doctors. I can still remember my favorite counselors and nurses and how they set a strong example for me to never give up (and oh there are times when I want to just quit diabetes!) so that I would believe by their example that diabetes had no limit on me. GCC works tirelessly to provide a safe and exceptional experience these kids will take with them for the rest of their life. I know because I was one of them. Today, 30+ years later, the camp is still making a difference in my life as well as thousands of others.
If you or a family member or friend has T1D, please consider telling them about GCC. If they are now an adult and are no longer a kid, it’s not too late to go camping! There is also an Adult Camp for past campers and any other T1D adult who would love to experience camp for a weekend and do many of the same activities the campers get to do. There’s no age limit! The Adult Camp experience is a fundraising event for GCC. Truthfully, we get spoiled with great food, hearing about the latest advancements in treatments for T1D, and good fellowship. First time adult campers and their support systems (aka spouse or a family support person) are welcome to attend and connect with other T1 diabetics. This usually takes place at the end of August and is a lot of fun. For more information about Adult Camp, please click here.
If you are a quilter, a sewer, you like to write old fashioned letters, then there are a few ways you can help contribute to GCC. Here’s how you can help:
Some of the children that attend GCC also have other medical issues affecting them in addition to diabetes. Sometimes these kids come from foster families, have been through a difficult tragedy, or are doubly or triply challenged with other health issues in one form or another. These kids are blessed with memorable quilts that have their name on them to make them feel extra special. Quilts must be made with new unscented fabric and sizes can vary from lap to queen. You can donate quilts, stuffed animals, or other thoughtful homemade gifts and all of them go directly to a child or teenager that needs it the most. They will receive the item during their stay at camp and you will make their special memories even more extraordinary by encouraging them to never give up because someone out there cares about them. You can find out more information by contacting the executive director of GCC, Rob Dailey, at email@example.com or by contacting Creekside Quilts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How exciting is it to get an unexpected letter in the mail from someone who cares? How much greater could that experience be if the letter was received while at camp? When I was at camp over 30 years ago, “mail call” was a big deal and nearly everyone received a letter or a package in the mail every day. Fast forward 30 years and many kids don’t even know what it feels like to receive a birthday card, post card or letter in the mail because everything is done by email. If you are a diabetic yourself or if you’ve been affected by Type 1 diabetes in your life, please consider writing at least one letter to a child at camp. It will be given to a child who could use a pick-me-up or an encouraging word to help them through the rest of the week. If you’re a diabetic, write about what it’s like for you so the child can relate to you or what it’s like to have a family member who you grew up with have T1D. Tell them about yourself, your job, your own personal camp experience, or perhaps a different ailment you may have in a way that will encourage them in their lifelong struggle to never give up. Please do not include your contact information in the letter itself (phone, address) but you are encouraged to include your name. All letters will be screened before they are handed out. Please include if you would specifically would like your letter to go to a girl, boy, or either and the intended age or grade range. You can print a Submission Form [here] when it becomes available.
I’ve provided some examples of post cards from 2019 of what you might write below:
Want to learn more about Type 1 diabetes? Click Here.
Want more information about GCC? Visit www.galescreekcamp.org to learn more about what the camp does, how it supports families affected by T1D and how you can support it and donate. You are also welcome to reply to this blog entry or send an email to email@example.com with any questions or comments. You can drop off donations at Creekside Quilts in Gales Creek, OR or at the Gales Creek Camp office in Tigard, OR. Arrangements can also be made to pick up a donation from you.
If you would like to donate your time and see the camp in person, please consider signing up for the Camp Cleanup and Open House Day. Signups for 2020 are starting in March. It’s a lot of fun! You get to see camp and meet other diabetics and staff that return every year to volunteer their time. And did I mention the free lunch with vegetarian, gluten free, and low-carb options?
With gratitude and thanksgiving from a recipient of GCC,