A lot of things have impacted my life, few as much as Camp Ho Mita Koda (HMK).
I first went to camp sometime in the late 1980’s for a picnic that was put on by the doctors and staff at Case Western Reserve University and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. I was a few years into my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and was a participant in the Diabetes Complications and Control Trial (DCCT), a landmark study looking at the long term effects of tight blood glucose control vs. “standard” treatment which at the time was less intensive. The staff thought it was a way for some of us participants to meet and to thank us for our dedication and commitment to this research study. This first day on the camp grounds felt very good to me. I had been an advocate of outdoor activities my whole life and this was the perfect “playground”. I had just been in the process of changing careers and was recently accepted into the Ursuline College School of Nursing and asked Dr. Saul Genuth, the DCCT chair, how I could get involved with camp. He linked me to Dr. Marc Feingold, the medical director at camp at the time, who set me up as a dispensary aide for the next summer during my freshman year at Ursuline. Little did I know that almost 30 yrs. later I would still be involved in the special place that became my second home.
The first five years at camp were the best. This is because I was able to spend nine weeks each summer physically at camp. The second year I was asked to be the dispensary (healthcare center) charge. I, along with a nurse named Betsy Brown, who was my mentor and a DCCT coordinator, interviewed many candidates and we hired my staff. I worked with camp director and storyteller Rich Humphreys and we ran a capacity camp for three years. During this time, I has some of the best times of my life, meeting friends who are still people I communicate with regularly today including Rich Humphreys, who remains one of my best friends. Rich received the Lilly 50 yr. diabetes award eight years ago and is still a role model for so many youngsters with type 1.
In 1993 I met a dietary intern from Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland who was on her final rotation of her internship.
We spent two weeks together at camp which began a relationship that ended up in marriage five years later.
We were married at Notre Dame College of Ohio and had our wedding reception at camp HMK on May 23rd, 1998. It was truly a special day and I can’t believe it’s been 19 yrs. The final year of the five that I lived at camp, Rich decided to take his three teenage children around the county in a motor home so I directed camp that year. I had the best staff ever and will never forget that summer. It was truly magical.
The next 15 or so years I’ve remained involved with HMK in several different roles. I was the camp health care manager and along with medical director Dr. Douglas Rogers from the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, kept the program safe and effective working through all of the changes to diabetes management. I’ve continued to direct other camps along the way; we did teen weekend for kids too old for camp (last done in 2016), volunteered for a camp for kids with cystic fibrosis, directed type 2 diabetes camp for seven years and directed a camp for kids with PKU, an inborn error of energy metabolism for 14 years. I continue to sit on the steering committee and help out whenever I can. My wife Jill and I now have three teenage daughters who grew up at HMK. I would often bring them along when they were younger and put them in cabins with the campers, it was very special to them who obviously wouldn’t be on this earth if it wasn’t for HMK. I could go on but need to run to work. I am currently a certified diabetes nurse educator at Case and Rainbow where I started currently coordinating diabetes clinical trials and am still a participant in the DCCT/EDIC study.
Camp Ho Mita Koda was established in 1929 as the world’s first summer vacation camp for children with diabetes.
It was founded by Dr. Henry John and his wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Beaman, on land that was originally their family’s summer cabin, in Newbury, OH. Dr. Henry John, a MD who graduated from Western Reserve School of Medicine (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland OH, was also a founder of the American Diabetes Association and the first physician to administer IV glucose. He was one of the pioneers of insulin treatment for diabetes. Dr. and Mrs. John envisioned a summer camp where children with diabetes could learn how to manage their diabetes while enjoying the company of other children. In the summer of 1929, Dr. and Mrs. John took six children to their summer cottage and continued to direct Camp Ho Mita Koda for the following 20 years! The 72 acre camp now caters to children ages 4-17 with diabetes. Its management was recently taken over by a new nonprofit called the Camp Ho Mita Koda Foundation.
You can support Dr. and Mrs. John’s 88-year-old vision by visiting: http://www.chmkfoundation.org/
To participate in the Camp Ho Mita Koda Foundation’s first fundraiser please visit: https://rafflecreator.com/pages/15457/camp-ho-mita-koda-cash-calendar-raffle#
Facebook: Camp Ho Mita Koda Foundation, @CHMKFoundation