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Children, Volunteers, Guests Share Stories from LVHN’s Camp Red Jacket

Fifty-five children with Type 1 diabetes sat glued to their seats on June 30 as they heard special guest and Olympic snowboarder Sean Busby speak at Camp Red Jacket, a free three-day camp sponsored by Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN).

Busby inspired children to dream big and discussed how he snowboards despite living with Type 1 diabetes. “Diabetes gave me a competitive advantage as an athlete and taught me to be more responsible.” he says.

The camp, now in its 16th year, is supported through the generosity of the Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)-Muhlenberg Auxiliary and Frank Loretti of Hellertown. During the camp, children learn how to manage their diabetes in a safe and fun environment.

Here are stories from this year’s camp.

Songs of joy

Throughout Camp Fowler in Orefield, kids sing “We love Camp Red Jacket.” Abundant fun in the sun makes for an activity-packed three days. So too do the valuable life skills children learn from diabetes-certified registered dietitians about how to measure blood sugar levels and prepare nutritionally balanced, healthy snacks.

This year, campers made blueberry bran muffins, English muffin pizzas, and low-fat fruit-and-yogurt parfaits. “These activities encourage kids to make snacks at home and not always grab pre-made, processed foods,” says registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Karen Conner with LVHN’s Helwig Diabetes Center.

“At camp kids can just relax and be themselves and not worry about their diabetes,” says Marie Tomins, LPN, with Helwig.

From camper to volunteer

Some Camp Red Jacket alumni enjoyed the camp so much, they return to volunteer. Hannah Kumar, 16, of Upper Nazareth Township, a first-time camp counselor, was diagnosed with diabetes at age 4. She volunteered this year to help other kids better manage their diabetes.

“I had a camper tell me, ‘Before camp I thought I was the only one who had diabetes, but after camp, I realized there is more of a support system, I’m not alone.’” Heartfelt moments like these make Camp Red Jacket special, says Kumar, who is entering her senior year at Nazareth Area High School. “There’s more to life, and there’s a lot to learn and more to experience,” she says. “You can accomplish the impossible.”

“The best three weeks of the year”

That’s how certified registered nurse practitioner Kailin Rumfield, CRNP, from LVPG Pediatric Endocrinology–17th Street, refers to Camp Red Jacket. Diagnosed at age 7 with Type 1 diabetes, Rumfield can relate to what campers are going through as they grow up managing diabetes.

“Kids learn how to balance their nutrition, how to practice counting carbs, learn proper insulin injection and pump site rotation among other important skills in managing the disease,” Rumfield says.

Rumfield joins LVHN colleagues from Helwig, pediatric and adult endocrinology, community volunteers and camp counselors who help staff the camp. “Here everything is normalized,” she says. “Kids feel safe and are well medically managed. We make sure kids can have fun and just be kids.”

A giant finale

On the last day of camp, kids participate in a carnival-style event featuring a dunk tank, a giant inflatable obstacle course and a D.J. It’s one reason why children such as 10-year-old Ben Fletcher of Wescosville return annually.

“I like Camp Red Jacket because I have a lot of friends at camp, and I like coming and seeing my friends when I come to camp every year,” He says. It comes as no surprise Ben will surely return to camp next year for his sixth time.