Imagine one day you’re a normal child; you can do anything, say anything, eat anything without a care in the world. You are invincible.
Quickly, your world comes crashing down around you. No longer carefree, you quickly become trapped inside your own body, your own problems, and your own insecurities.
I was ten years old when everything changed; dim lights blinded me, pain beat my body like a drum, and my muscles felt like fire. My mom took me to get lunch before she took me to the doctor. I remember the fear in her voice when she told me to get whatever I wanted because I might not ever have the chance again. I was quickly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I had no clue what that meant, except I was assured over and over again that it wasn’t my fault. As a child, I didn’t believe that for one second. A week or two spent in the hospital, learning how to deal with my new life, and all I could think about when I had visitors or doctors poking me all over was a sense of guilt; I was different, it was all my fault, and I thought everyone knew it.
A year or two went by, years spent learning to give myself shots every day and control my blood sugars, my life hanging in the balance. A childhood balancing life and death with numbers and formulas is no childhood. The disease stole my innocence and made me grow up so much faster than any child should ever have to.
After the first few years, I came to a crossroads in my life. I learned about a camp for kids with Type 1 diabetes. At first, I couldn’t imagine going away for a whole week, and I was so nervous that I almost dismissed the idea. Then, all at once like an avalanche my life changed; just as permanent as the disease but this time for the better. At camp, everything was silly; I learned hilarious songs, played great games, went swimming, and made friends that would last a lifetime. Most importantly, camp gave me back my childhood; I was no longer worried every second that I might pass out or end up in the hospital. I could just be a kid, without judgment and with kids all around me that understood and knew the challenges in life for someone with diabetes.
This is the magic of camp for someone with a medical condition. This place is a place that creates dreams from nightmares, gives hope to the hopeless, and alters the very life of every child that walks down its paths. Camp is not just a place, though, but full of people whose job it is to be the force of change in the lives of kids who have had their lives stripped away by cancer or heart disease or diabetes. Nothing could be more sacred. Instead of magical characters granting wishes in books, these children have real magic given to them by counselors.
Without camp, I never would have regained what I had lost and so desperately needed. In the midst of sharp needles and constant worry, camp gave me back my life. Without camp, I never would have met the people who would turn out to be my best friends in the world. Without camp, I never would have been inspired by the doctors at camp in such a way that I, in turn, want to become a doctor to help fight for the little kids of tomorrow. Without camp, I never would have had the amazing counselors that served as role models for me and inspired me to live my life as a role model for others. And most importantly, without camp, I never would have reached a point in my life where I embraced my differences as a part of myself because without this disease and without the magic of camp I would not be the person I am today.
Camp Joy Counselor and Resource Staff 2012-2015
Camp Korelitz Camper and Counselor