At age ten, Katie Barkley Lavelle was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Soon after her diagnosis, when Katie was invited to attend a week at Camp Korelitz for children with diabetes, she had no inkling of how much that invitation would change her life. Today, Katie is a teacher and credits her Camp Joy experience for her career choice.
It was understandably hard for her mom to let her newly diagnosed daughter out of sight for an entire week. Katie thinks the fact doctors from Cincinnati Children’s’ were on board helped put her mom at ease. “It was even harder for mom when I became a Counselor-In-Training (CIT) at 15 – and then a Junior Counselor at 17, because I was at camp for the entire summer.” Katie spent six summers, age 15-21, serving Camp Joy. And Katie feels she was served abundantly by Camp Joy in return.
“After a bit of hesitation about sleeping away from home, I realized how awesome Camp Joy was and I was hooked for the long haul. I fit in; I was safe. I got to do things I had never done in the suburbs – canoeing, fishing, and archery. I also got to create art and make jewelry. I even got to eat my first s’mores. Our diet was monitored by camp nutritionists so it was worked into my food plan.”
Katie noted being a CIT/Junior Counselor really pushed her out of her comfort zone. She had babysitting experience, but reflected it was nothing like being responsible for kids 24/7. “It was truly life changing to step outside of my own bubble. I realized I lived a blessed life and wanted to help others who are less blessed. Camp Joy gave me the opportunity to do just that.”
“I always worked with the seven and eight year old girls and I loved it! They would come to Camp like I did, apprehensive about being away from home. By the end of the week, we were a little family and we all cried when we had to part. The campers stood taller and had more confidence. I saw what an impact an adult could make on kids in one week. I thought about how wonderful it would be to have an entire year to make a difference in kid’s lives, so I decided to be a teacher.” And she’s been teaching for 13 years. Lucky students to have such a caring, inspired teacher!
One of her favorite parts of Camp was having baskets of books in her cabin to read to the kids. The campers loved that bedtime ritual. A popular book says everything you need to know you learn in Kindergarten (ironically the grade Katie teaches.) Katie may say everything you need to know you learn at Camp Joy. She works her loving magic daily in her classroom and reading to her students is a vital part.
Speaking of magic, Camp Joy and Harry Potter’s magical invisibility cloak have something in common. When Katie enjoyed being a camper, she was happy for the “invisibility” factor of being just a “normal” kid. For other children with or without a medical challenge, who feel invisible or lost in the crowd in daily life, they become visible and empowered by the magic of a week at Camp Joy. Sorry, Harry Potter, but with all due respect, we had the invisibility cloak gig first. Move over, JK Rowling!