Diabetes UK camps and family events

By | 24 February, 2012

I know we have a few parents who lurk on ShootUp so I’ll take this opportunity to bang one of my favourite drums. Back in the dark ages, when I was young, I went on numerous Diabetes UK children’s camps. I loved them. Learning to abseil, kayak and orienteer with other pancreatically challenged types was just fantastic. It was an upside to having diabetes.

My first camp, aged 5 was when I realised that there were other people in the world who had diabetes, it wasn’t just me. I was surrounded by 40 other kids who looked normal, but who did blood tests and injections too. Amazing.

It got me away from my parents too. Which was a great thing, because it helped me start to take a tiny bit of responsibility for my diabetes. I was enveloped in cotton wool on the camp, surrounded by Drs, nurses and helpers who’d help me check my blood sugars, decide what insulin I should take, keep an eye out for hypos, make sure I ate when I needed to. But it was the first time I’d ever done that without my parents there. And when you’ve done that, it makes sleepovers with friends a much less terrifying prospect.

It created a great competitive spirit too. I saw so many kids do their first injection all by themselves at camp. Because there’s nothing more embarrassing than being a 7 year old who has to be injected by the Dr when there’s a 6 year old next to you doing it themselves.

I can’t even bring myself to adopt my usual sarcastic, slightly cynical style when it comes to Diabetes UK camps and family weekends. I think they are the most valuable thing Diabetes UK does. Their family weekends give parents and kids a chance to learn about diabetes, but more importantly, to meet other people going through the same nightmare and realise that they can get through it. I’ve spoken at a few of the family weekends about growing up with diabetes and I love doing it – you can see people visibly change. From terrified newcomers facing a life dominated by an evil chronic disease, to people who can see how to get a grasp on the diabetes monster and live well despite it.

Seriously, if you have a child with diabetes, get them onto a Diabetes UK children’s holiday. Or take the family on one of their Family Weekends. If money is an issue, there is funding available from ;

18 thoughts on “Diabetes UK camps and family events

  1. Tim

    Shucks! I wish I hadn’t been diagnosed so old – I missed out on camps 🙁

    But seriously, they sound a brilliant thing to do.

  2. Mike

    Me too @tim. How about you and me squat down a bit, pull on short trousers, lie about our age and try to sneak in?

    1. Alison Post author

      I guess this is your punishment for having immune systems that were slow to attack. The early bird gets the beta cells and the holiday…or something like that.

    2. Tim

      Sounds great Mike, but I fear this sort of plan ultimately ends up with residence on a segregated wing in a Category A prison.

        1. Tim

          Yes, but then we would have to work. I think what Mike and I are after is a week of doing archery, canoeing and running around and stuff – not work!

  3. Dave

    Great piece and fully agree. I loved camp too.

    I went on three at the ages of 5, 9 and 13. Well, technically I went on four but I got sent home from my first one because I caught chicken pox so spent a day in quarantine whilst my parents drove over to pick me up. Thankfully they managed to squeeze me into another camp a few weeks later.

    The last one is most memorable for being a campsite of raging hormones and kids injecting all over the place.

    As Alison said the key part is being surrounded by other diabetics and removing the feeling of being the ‘only one’.

    Speaking to my parents years later they loved it too as they were fully confident my time away was perfectly safe and they wouldn’t get a phone call from a grandparent or aunty asking “what do we do with dave as he’s gone very white and keeps spilling his drink?”.

    Parents – do it, everyone benefits!

  4. Megs

    The camps do a great job promoting independence. Sadly I was never allowed to go on one as my parents didn’t think I would manage – missing the whole point of them by a country mile.

    What is the cut off age for the camps? I’m a very young looking forty something.

    1. Tim

      Going by @Mike’s and @Meg’s replies above there is obviously a gap in the market for grown up camps. I was going to call them “adult” camps, but I didn’t want to encourage the usual sort of smut that such a suggestion would descend into. Shoot Up’s a family site after all 😉

        1. Mike

          Quite! We could all show each other our BMs in the cafeteria. Fnaar fnaar etc.

  5. Annette A

    I went to camp every year fromt eh age of about 7 up to the age of 15 ish (I forget exactly). Every year followed the same pattern. After about 3 days, I had a massive night time hypo, spent the next day throwing up, had my insulin massively reduced. Came home at the end of it, had to put my insulin straight back up to where it was before I went. Every year we told them it would happen, every year they said ‘no,no,we have professionals here looking after you, it wont happen.’
    However, I did first come across a pump on on of the later holidays (I have no idea how the young lady in question got one, it was well before they were available to the general public), and kids who were petrified of injecting into various bits of themselve (mainly stomachs) but who, after the promise of a full star chart. managed it, who had never done blood tests (urine tests at the beginning) themselves becoming fullt competent at the end – although I have to admit I dont look back on them with fondness, I do say they did me a lot of good, and I would wholeheartedly agree that all CWDs should go on at least one.

  6. Martyn Pridmore

    I went on the holiday for 16-18 year olds last year… it was honestly one of the best things I have ever done! It really was amazing, and I’ve made some great long-term friends because of it, who also just happen to understand when I waffle about my basals! (I’m sure I bore my “normal” friends, but I can’t stop waffling!)
    And this year I’ve been accepted to volunteer on a family event, which I’m really looking forward to, ‘cos it means I can hopefully make some other people as happy as I was when I went 😉
    So yep, totally agree! 😛

  7. Dawn Brock

    I am a parent and “lurker” from Australia, and I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written. We also have Diabetes Camps and my daughter has attended two of them and had a great time. She met a lot of other girls her age and it was good for her to feel that she wasn’t the only one. She is still in touch with some of those girls from the camp two years ago.
    We have a couple of week long camps and quite a few weekend camps, for the different age groups. Parents can attend the camps with the younger children but my daughter, although diagnosed at 8, was 13 when she went on her first camp so she was on her own. It was good for us as parents as we were confident that she was well cared for – the Diabetes Educator involved came from the hospital where she was first diagnosed, and so was the lady who taught us 🙂

  8. katherine cromwell

    Green with envy here! No not allowed indeed we didn’t have the Balance mag as it was too depressing. Christmas parties …no. Perhaps if we had an adult version we could try each others pumps out(obviously adjusting the basal?) Would we need to invite our Diab team though as we probably no more than them put together?

  9. Peter Childs

    Agreed, I remember camps from when I was young, very good and remeber a happy time from 20 years plus back… It was great as a forces child who was diagnosed out in Germany aged 8. being able to come back and meet diabetic children who actually spoke english!

    I did hear at one point Diabetes UK tried to back off on the number of camps they organised. There certainly don’t seem to be as many as there once were. In recent years they seem to have had a bit of a revival.

    For the older diabetics among us who might want to go on one… You can volunteer to “help” on one. Probably the best place to start is your local diabetes group, where you might be able to see what any parents want support with. locally here there is a specialist youth diabetes group (Not that I’ve had much contact with them, as my kids don’t have diabetes (yet and hopefully don’t develop it :)).



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