OHIO hosts virtual diabetes camp, helps youth stay connected amid pandemic 

OHIO hosts virtual diabetes camp, helps youth stay connected amid pandemic 

ATHENS, Ohio (July 20, 2020) – Although the COVID-19 pandemic may be keeping people physically apart, efforts are still being made to make sure people stay connected. The Diabetes Institute at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine will virtually host the second-ever CAT Camp, a summer day camp for southeastern Ohio youth with Type 1 diabetes, on July 27-31, with that goal of staying connected.

The camp is open for youth ages 8 through 17 with Type 1 diabetes. Campers can expect two-hour online sessions each day as well as interactive games, a scavenger hunt, bingo, special guests and more during this year’s CAT Camp – At Home Edition. 

“The main focus behind the camp is to bring together youth that have Type 1 diabetes so that they can gain support and encouragement from other youth who are also living with Type 1 diabetes,” Karie Cook, B.S.N., director of operations for the Diabetes Institute and camp director, said. “Having that connection with other kids their age can be really encouraging and help with their self-management.”

Even though this year’s campers can’t meet up in person, the camp will still allow campers to connect virtually while also keeping them safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that people with Type 1 diabetes might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Before CAT Camp was held last year, local youth had to travel to other regions of Ohio to attend a diabetes day camp. The Athens County Foundation and the Royal and Select Masons of Ohio help make the event possible with their support.

Each day will have a different theme and the campers will be encouraged to dress up. Supply boxes will also go out to each camper that will contain everything they need for each Cat Camp activity. Enough supplies were included in the boxes so that siblings can also participate in the camp festivities. 

“[The kids] are at home, probably for a large portion of their time right now, so the support they’re getting is from their families and their siblings, so we wanted to be able to include and involve them as well,” Cook said. 

The camp allows kids to not worry about feeling left out as well, explained Cook. In other areas of their lives, such as day camps, schools and local community, the campers may face being the only one with Type 1 diabetes and feel singled out when pulled out of activities to manage their blood sugar. During CAT Camp, everyone is on an even playing field and understanding as everyone has the condition. 

That is why while some activities focus on diabetes and self-management, another main focus for the camp is to simply have fun and provide an outlet for the youth to connect with others that they can relate to. 

“Last year, the campers knew they had diabetes and had to do things about it, but it was a time for them to not worry about it. So, continuing to keep some of that normalcy for them, even in this strange time, I think is really important,” Amber Healy, D.O., Heritage College assistant clinical professor of specialty medicine and director of the clinical care division of the Diabetes Institute, said. “Realizing there are still people out there that are still dealing with their diabetes, even if they are distanced by a screen, is so important.”

Additionally, Healy and Sarah Adkins, PharmD, associate director for the Diabetes Institute and pharmacist, will also host a parent panel one night of the camp. This will allow parents to get to talk to a physician and pharmacist at the same time and ask questions.

Other Diabetes Institute staff members the campers will meet include Stacy Wright, R.N., B.S.N., outcomes and resources manager; Jody Van Bibber, administrative specialist; and Karen Bailey, M.S., diabetes educator. The team is looking forward to providing an awesome camp experience for the youth.

“This whole pandemic could be very isolating in the exact same way that it could be for a child with diabetes in a different setting, so being able to still connect, even if it is virtually, is the best that we can do in this pandemic stage,” Cook said. 

Although registration for this year’s camp is closed, Cook encourages anyone who is interested in next year’s camp or in learning more about peer mentorship in regards to diabetes to reach out to her at cookk1@ohio.edu