Camp aims to help youth with Type 1 diabetes live to fullest
MAPLETON, Maine — Emily Lavertu of Frenchville grew up with Type 1 diabetes and said she learned how to adapt to the challenges of the disease thanks in part to Cary Camp Adventure, an annual camp for youth living with this form of diabetes from across the state.
“No one else really understands what you’re going through. After going to this camp, it lifts the burden off your shoulders,” said Lavertu, 19, who is studying to be a registered dietician and diabetes educator at the University of Maine Orono.
Since 1997, Cary Medical Center in Caribou has organized the annual Cary Camp Adventure at the Baptist Park in Mapleton, as a weeklong overnight camp for youth ages 12-18 with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic illness people are born with in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
The camp this year is being held June 24-29 and bringing in kids from all over Maine, from Portland to the St. John Valley, said Lavertu, who works as the junior camp coordinator of the event.
Lavertu said the camp focuses on showing kids with Type 1 diabetes through a range of group outdoor activities and confidence-building skills that “the illness doesn’t have to hold them back.
“It’s based on giving students a lot of independence. It puts them in control of their disease,” she said.
The camp also shows students job opportunities they can pursue in the healthcare field, from working as an endocrinologist to nursing to emergency medicine. Along with the 25 students, the camp brings together doctors, nurses and other experts in the field of diabetes.
Each year, the camp also features a different guest speaker who is living with Type 1 diabetes, such as U.S. cross country ski racer Kris Freeman. This year’s speaker has not yet been announced, Lavertu said.
Lavertu was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7 and started going to the Camp Adventure when she was 12.
“Growing up with Type 1 diabetes, you’re mind is always racing. You have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Do I need to test? Do I need to eat? Why am I not feeling good? Being active can be difficult because of fluctuating blood sugars.”
The camp shows youth how to manage those issues and gives them a boost of confidence, Lavertu said.
“It makes you realize, maybe I’m not so alone. I would not be where I am now without the camp.”
Lavertu said this year’s camp is fully booked. For more information about attending in the future, contact Cary Medical Center.