How Camp Ho Mita Koda Has Impacted My Life

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

Why I Helped Save Camp Ho Mita Koda

Until Monday, October 25, 1999, I was a “normal” second grader. One afternoon, my mom picked me up from the bus stop and told me I was not going to ballet class. She brought me to an appointment at my pediatrician’s office where I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes by our family nurse practitioner. I was immediately admitted to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital where I was poked, prodded and drowning in tears. After that first night, I decided I was a trooper. I decided I was over diabetes being physically painful and I accepted the needles. However, when I returned to elementary school the following week, I didn’t feel “normal”.

Everyone knew why I was in the hospital for a week. I didn’t like being in the spotlight. I especially didn’t like having to raise my hand when I felt low or high to go to the nurse’s office. I was tired of adults asking me if I felt okay.
<blockquote>I wanted everyone to forget I had diabetes. I wanted everything to go back to the way it was before.</blockquote>
However, a few months later, I started using an insulin pump which was a constant reminder that I was not normal. The overwhelmingly large, rectangular device that bulged out of my pocket made me even more self-conscious. One time on the playground at recess, a classmate asked me about my pump… and I ran the other direction. I was not comfortable in my own skin, and I wanted to hide my diabetes.

Then, the third year I lived with diabetes, I told my mom I wanted to go to sleep away camp like all of my friends. She said that our family nurse practitioner told her about an extraordinary camp where I would meet other children with type 1 diabetes. My nurse even worked there for a few summers! I was so excited to go to the camp.

Upon arriving at camp, I was my usual shy self. After meeting my new childhood best friend the first night, everything changed.
<blockquote>Camp was the first place where I felt “normal” since my diabetes diagnosis.</blockquote>
I was able to talk to other girls my age who experienced the same fears, struggles, and emotions. I was not singled out for feeling low, checking my blood sugar or having to count carbohydrates before lunch. I didn’t even feel the need to hide my insulin pump! I made some of my best childhood friends at diabetes camp.

My camp friends helped me through my difficult teenage years. They made me proud, and the real me revealed. The real me is fearless, bold and full of enthusiasm when opening up about living with diabetes. In high school, I was confident about my diabetes and shared my experiences with my friends. I felt supported! I even worked as a counselor at a diabetes day camp where I became aware of my own strength in being a positive diabetes role model. By the end of high-school, I decided I wanted to study nursing and become a diabetes researcher or educator.

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In August 2010, I left for nursing school at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, OH– 500 miles away from my dear friends and family. My plan was never to be in the Midwest or to end up so far away from everything and everyone I knew. CWRU was certainly the best choice for my aspirations. However, it was difficult, at first, learning how to manage my diabetes on my own. I was so far from home and had little support. I was still open to all of my college friends and my nursing class about growing up with type 1 diabetes. However, I spent four years opening up about my experiences but lacking a diabetes support system.

I graduated with my BSN in 2014 and continued my education by pursuing a Ph.D. in nursing science, also at CWRU. I was confident in the decision to dedicate my life to diabetes nursing and research. To gain RN experience while studying, I took an RN job at Camp Ho Mita Koda in summer 2015. That summer, I listened to and observed the psychosocial issues that campers of all ages faced. That summer was when I was certain that the Ph.D. in nursing with a focus on type 1 diabetes self-management in emerging adults was where my knowledge and work was unquestionably needed. Summer 2015 was also the summer that I met Paul McGuigen, a BSN, RN, CDE, and research nurse at a local pediatric hospital, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. Paul had been coming to camp since he was diagnosed with diabetes. In fact, living with diabetes also inspired Paul’s career choice. [[We can’t wait to share more about Paul’s story with you on another blog post!]]

Like Paul, I have also been touched by Camp Ho Mita Koda to pursue my career path. I meet so many children at Camp Ho Mita Koda who remind me of how my journey began. I watch these children grow into confident, “normal” feeling young adults with type 1 diabetes, who advocate for and take care of themselves. After years of missing a significant piece of my life, I find myself at home with the diabetes community in Northeast Ohio. Camp Ho Mita Koda has given me the support system that I was missing for so many years.
<blockquote>Diabetes camp has guided my career path and my life journey. Today, I am a diabetes advocate and believer in diabetes camps.</blockquote>
So, thank you so much for the lives you touch, Camp Ho Mita Koda, you truly make a difference.

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To support Camp Ho Mita Koda and the new nonprofit managing it, Camp Ho Mita Koda Foundation, please visit: <a href=”http://www.chmkfoundation.org/”>http://www.chmkfoundation.org/</a>


To contribute to Camp Ho Mita Koda Foundation’s first fundraiser, please visit: <a href=”https://rafflecreator.com/pages/15457/camp-ho-mita-koda-cash-calendar-raffle”>https://rafflecreator.com/pages/15457/camp-ho-mita-koda-cash-calendar-raffle#</a>


For questions, please contact Camp Ho Mita Koda foundation at <a href=”mailto:info@chmkfoundation.org”>info@chmkfoundation.org</a>

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