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New partnership, corporate donations keep diabetes camp on P.E.I.

Shawn MacKenzie is thrilled that his six-year-old daughter, Tory, will be going to diabetes camp in Prince Edward Island this summer, thanks to the efforts of parents, former staff and former campers at Camp Red Fox. Diabetes Canada announced in January that Camp Red Fox in Canoe Cove was closing.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Shawn MacKenzie is thrilled that his six-year-old daughter, Tory, will be going to diabetes camp in Prince Edward Island this summer, thanks to the efforts of parents, former staff and former campers at Camp Red Fox. Diabetes Canada announced in January that Camp Red Fox in Canoe Cove was closing. ©THE GUARDIAN - Dave Stewart

Shawn MacKenzie and his wife were devastated when their six-year-old daughter, Tory, was diagnosed in August with type 1 diabetes.
They’ve been adjusting well, but Shawn said it’s been a bigger deal than he expected.

“It was very overwhelming, right from the beginning,’’ Shawn said.

One of the things that kept getting brought up by physicians at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was how much children diagnosed with diabetes benefit from the annual diabetes camp every summer. There was one problem, Diabetes Canada announced in January that it was shutting down Camp Red Fox in Canoe Cove in P.E.I., giving Island children only one option – attend camp in Nova Scotia.

RELATED: Children's diabetes camp in P.E.I. to close, merge with one in Nova Scotia

That all changed late last week when a new partnership was announced between Camp Triumph in Malpeque (Cabot Park) and a group of diabetes camping experts. Combined with donations from the Cornwall/Charlottetown KOA and KKP in Charlottetown, it means that Island children with diabetes can go to camp here at home. The camp will run July 2-6. Registration opens March 21.

A full pediatric diabetes team, led by QEH pediatrician Dr. Peggy Bethune, will attend the P.E.I. camp.

Fundraising

- Costs to offer a camp for children living with type 1 diabetes are two to three times higher than a non-medically focused summer camp program

- A $500 donation will cover the costs for one child to attend the camp; that’s on top of camp fees paid by families

- A contribution of $5,000 each from the Cornwall/Charlottetown KOA, owned by the Gray Group, and KKP Charlottetown will send 20 children to camp

- A fundraising campaign will be kicking off in the coming weeks

- It is hoped the P.E.I. business community and individual donors will rally to help send about 20 more children to the P.E.I. diabetes camp at Camp Triumph

- Details on how to register and donate will be available soon

“We have heard from several children and families – especially younger ones who have been recently diagnosed – that they won’t attend camp outside the province,’’ Bethune said.

MacKenzie said there was no way he and his wife were sending Tory to Nova Scotia for a week.

“We began to toss it around: can we send her to Nova Scotia?’’ MacKenzie said. “I know a lot of people do that, but right off the bat? It’s way too early for us, she’s not even going to be seven by the time the camp happens.

“Once we realized how many scares you get on a weekly basis . . . you can’t imagine having her four or five hours away, no matter who’s company she’s in.’’

MacKenzie said having Camp Triumph offer up its space is the best-case scenario.

“Not only that, she’s probably going to be a little bit more exposed to kids locally. She might be able to develop friendships a little easier with a smaller group with kids from P.E.I. She’s very excited about this.’’

Matt Sheriko, director of advancement and operations for the Camp Triumph Society, said parents, former staff of Camp Red Fox and former campers deserve all the credit for pulling this together.

“We were approached and we felt we were in a position to help them out and form a partnership with them,’’ Sheriko said. “So, we worked with them to try and make it happen.’’

Camp Triumph is a charity organization, which operates a camp for kids who have a parent or sibling with a serious illness or disability. There is a week that organizers don’t need the camp, which set things up perfectly for the diabetes group.

P.E.I. children with diabetes will still have the option of attending the Diabetes Camp this summer in Nova Scotia, but it should be noted that Camp Triumph is not affiliated with Diabetes Canada.

Notes

- Type 1 diabetes is a life-threatening chronic disease that appears suddenly in a child’s life

- It requires daily balancing of carbohydrate intake, blood glucose monitoring and insulin injections

- If blood glucose levels go too high or too low, diabetic coma and death are real consequences

- Night time is particularly dangerous when children living with diabetes and their parents/guardians are sleeping and may not notice the swings in blood glucose levels

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