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  • Writer's pictureJill Kietzke

Another Wisconsin Lions Camp: Youth with Diabetes Week in the books!

'Tis camp time again! One of the best weeks of the year and it did not disappoint. The dedicated staff at Wisconsin Lions Camp put in so many hours of hard work to make this week special and SAFE for everyone, staff and campers alike. This includes streamlining the staff training so we don't have to spend a couple extra days getting ready. I showed up at camp Saturday night, negative COVID test in hand, set up my camp bed in Aspens, and hit the hay early for what I knew was going to be a very busy 5 days. Of course I had to have Dad's t-shirt quilt on my bed.

Sunday morning before campers came I was introduced to my cabin counselors and weekly staff who would be staying in Hemlocks and Foresters: All new staff for me except Maria, who I had a blast with last year of course (especially playing BINGO in the nature center)! I had the special privilege to be assigned once again to 14-16 year old girls this year. This is very special as the 16 year-olds are finishing up their final year as campers during a graduation "ceremony" . I had 5 "seniors" this year and am so grateful to have been able to be a part of their unit. I was even given the Hemlocks and Foresters "Our Nurse of the Year" award.

Due to COVID restrictions, the cabins do all activities together, deciding on them as a group. So all the activities they do, I get to do! This year that included some new things (low ropes-much harder than it looks), coaster painting in crafts, and Nuke 'em, a cross between volleyball and dodgeball, (think 5 staff vs. 12 campers, with everybody cheering each other on). And of course some old favorites like archery, Gaga Ball, and of course the mud pit. While I didn't think I would ever be voluntarily headed in the mud ever again, how do you turn down a bunch of girls who will have their last mud pit experience. So instead, I owned it. Hair, face and all went in. I also had the privilege of being on the "rescue boat" for a current and another previous camper as the did the Lake Swim, which means swimming all the way across Lions Lake and back, a distance of almost 1 mile total. I was so proud of her and definitely tears of happiness as her cabin mates cheered her on at the end.

Each year the camp has a theme that is carried through in some of the activities and challenges. This year it was Lions Camp Cup. Units competed against each other all week in many ways, accumulating points along the way for things like cabin cleanliness (Clean Sweeps), fire building, naming all professional sports teams, flag competition (flags made by each unit in craft time), spirit competition, good sportsmanship, archery.... the list goes on. Sneeky was a challenge this year, being hidden somewhere in camp, with clues at every meal about his whereabouts. It took ALL week to find him laying in the sand near the swimming docks (I mean, he is a half popsicle stick after all!)

Imagine a day filled to the brim (like my cup overflowing when I am at camp). Luckily the older girls like to sleep in as late as possible and still make it to breakfast on time. Wake up at 7:30. Get ready and blood sugar checks/menus/dosing. Breakfast at 8:30. Back to the cabin to clean. Planned activities (2-3 different ones) until 11:30, back to cabins for blood sugar checks/menus/dosing before lunch. After lunch is more activities, rest hour, activities, snack time, more activities... Cabins for you guessed it: blood sugar checks/menus/dosing before dinner. Two more activities before snack time, and then FINALLY back to cabins for blood sugar checks and BED. I'm exhausted just writing it! I would stay in the cabin until at least 10 making out night round sheets. All through the day, except a 2 hour break each day, the staff are available to address high and low blood sugars with these extremely capable and empowering young ladies. And then we'd get up again the next morning and repeat it all over until Thursday.

Thursday evening was filled with hugs and goodbyes, as parents and campers reunite after this special week. Some staff had to leave, others just hung out, recalling our week, including some great times in the dining room at snack time with some loud music, table banging, kool-aid and grape spilling fun. I'm pretty sure the staff had more fun that night then the campers. I know my campers looked on with disbelief. Thanks to my Spotify Lions Camp playlist, I can re-live these moments whenever I want. And believe me, I do it often.

Friday morning, those who stayed helped with cabin clean up and paperwork, before the camp filled up again for week 2 of Youth with Diabetes at Wisconsin Lions Camp.

This week always humbles me so much. I have learned so much about myself and tried so many new things. Thanks to the staff (both medical and camp counselors), many of whom have Type 1 themselves, growing up with the camp experience and returning as staff to become mentors to kids in the same boat as they were. Five years ago, I didn't even know about Lions Camp for diabetes youth. I just knew that it would be a great way to honor my dad and get more experience with Type 1, kids, and the technology that has improved so much since I started. I am so lucky to be able to support these people, like they support me. My life will NEVER be the same after these experiences.

Please consider supporting Wisconsin Lions Camp. This amazing 440 acre property and the people involved are dedicated to providing a true summer camp experience for adults and youth with disabilities (vision and hearing impaired, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities and autism) at

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