FEATURE | Posted Aug. 19, 2016

Catering to kids with diabetes

UC Davis camp offers fun, exercise and Type 1 diabetes education

It was a snapshot of a typical summer camp day. Eighties music and the scent of sunscreen lingered in the air. Kids, dressed in swimsuits, were gathered by the UC Davis Rec Pool.

But before they could put on their goggles and dive in, these youngsters had one job to do: Test their blood sugar.

“We have to make sure our number is above 120 before we can go swimming or do any physical activity,” said camper Natalia Arzbaecher.

This is not your average summer camp. This is the Type 1 Diabetes Summer Camp, or T1D for short. Hosted by the pediatric endocrinology team at UC Davis Children’s Hospital and UC Davis Youth Programs, the camp offers a week of fun, friendship and activities specifically for kids with Type 1 Diabetes every July.

Josie Mays #169; UC Regents

Josie Mays

“We’re playing games and we’re running around and we’re keeping control of our blood sugar so it’s promoting good healthy habits,” said Arzbaecher, who was offered a peach to eat by registered dietitian Alex Nella after she tested her blood.

This year’s camp, which was held July 11-15, included water balloon fights and field games, rock climbing, T-shirt screen printing, and a field trip to the Sky High Sports trampoline park in Rancho Cordova. The camp is open to UC Davis patients through the pediatric endocrinology program, which was recently nationally ranked #29 in the country by U.S. News & World Report in diabetes and endocrinology.

Josephine Mays, a resident of Rocklin and first-time T1D camper, had fun and learned a lot. 

“I really like swimming and I also enjoyed the team-building exercises and rock-wall climbing," said Mays, who started the summer camp not knowing any other child but quickly forged friendships.

“Some of the older kids are really easy to talk to about personal experiences with diabetes and sharing information. It’s really nice to have someone to talk to,” Mays said.

Dennis Styne, the Yocha Dehe endowed chair in pediatric endocrinology at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, said that the camp provides another opportunity for his team to provide information to empower patients and their families and help them learn to live with Type 1 Diabetes.

“Children with diabetes have to understand that they are just like everybody else,” said Styne. “Yes, they have to do a few extra things and [these are] things that bother their day. They have to measure their blood sugar and they have to give themselves insulin either by injection or by their insulin pump. But they are just like everybody else and they can grow up to do just about anything.”

Related stories:

A pediatric patient’s guide to managing diabetes

Pediatric diabetes resources

Sweeteners and diabetes