Children Attend Camp to Learn About Diabetes

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HASTINGS, Neb. -- More than 1,000 kids in Nebraska have Type 1 diabetes, but not many of them know someone else with the disease.

32 kids from Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, and Colorado took part in Camp Hot Shots, a 2 day sleep over camp where they could play and learn about their disease.

7-year old Easton Beekman is a normal boy. He likes playing games and making new friends. But what makes Easton a little different is he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 2.

He said, "I feel bad sometimes, like I feel weird and my vision gets blurry."

Easton has been coming to the Mary Lanning Healthcare Hot Shots Camp for 2 years spending time with other kids with diabetes.

"It's a life long problem," said Deanna Carpenter, the Camp Coordinator and Manager of the Diabetes Program at Mary Lanning Healthcare. "Once you have it, you have to deal with it for the rest of your life and it really does affect your ability to live a healthy life. Even though we always think of Type 2, Type 1 diabetes is increasing just as well as Type 2 diabetes is."

And the experience has become educational for the Lincoln native.

"Last year he actually learned how to dose himself with his pump," said Ali Zavala-Beekman, Easton's mother. "We still count the carbs for him, but he's able to figure out his pump enough that he can dose himself and, again, have more normalcy."

Carpenter added, "Hopefully they learn to better manage their diabetes, to be a little bit more prepared. You know, if you're going away from home there's a lot of things that you need to take with you. I think there's some planning that they learn, that they need to plan ahead of time. And then we did some education on the importance of staying healthy and physically active. They do a lot of carb counting while they're here, counting all their carbohydrates and then we talked about complications too. If they don't manage their diabetes well these are some things that could happen in the future."

This year he learned some new information that's important to him.

"Signs of low blood sugar and high blood sugar," said Easton of what he learned over the two days.

While this camp provided a lot of educational opportunities, it also provided each of the campers a chance to talk and get to know other kids who are going through the same situation they are.

"A lot of it is that they're the only kid that lives in their area that has Type 1 Diabetes and so this allows them to come and spend some time with other kids that are doing the same thing and to meet people just like them," said Carpenter.

Easton said his favorite part of the camp was playing games with all the other kids.

"Easton tells us that he feels normal, he doesn't feel like an outsider because there's other people that he can relate to, other children that have and are battling the same things that he is," said Zavala-Beekman.