Camping Days

By Cataline Fric

Cataline Fric (pronounced CUT-LIN FRITZ) is an outdoor enthusiast with a strong passion for the arts. He spends the majority of his days teaching Junior High in Edmonton, Alberta. When he is not teaching, he spends his time taking care of his 100+ houseplant collection and exploring the never ending trails of Edmonton’s charming river valley, whether it be by bike or foot with his wife!

I’m in love with Camp

It’s in my heart and soul

Just a special little place on the edge of the lake

That keeps me from growing old

Camp Huronda, located on the shores of Lake Waseosa near Huntsville, Ontario, is a camp for youth with Type One diabetes. Every summer, roughly 400 children aged 8 to 15 attend the camp. Sprawling a beautifully wooded peninsula, the 110+ acre setting offers children the opportunity to attend two weeks to learn to live a life unrestricted by diabetes. Owned and operated by Diabetes Canada, the name Huronda is a composition of three words: HUR, for the Huron (Wendat), ON, for Ontario, and DA, for diabetes. I had taken a year after my diagnosis to think about camp. I felt the first year that I could have attended was too soon. As a young boy, I wanted to be mentally ready and I wasn’t about to get ahead of myself. While my diabetes education team was an invaluable part of living a healthy life with diabetes, I felt that it would help to be with and get to know others around my age who truly understood and were experiencing what living with diabetes was like. It was time to meet others living with Type One diabetes! Camp Huronda did exactly this, uniting children living with diabetes from all over Ontario.

As a diagnosed child living with diabetes, I was always worried that someone would make fun of me or think I was different from them for having a broken pancreas. There was nothing I could have done to prevent becoming a Type One, but for others my age, that was sometimes difficult to comprehend and openly discuss. I was the only one in my elementary school known to have diabetes, but that wasn’t going to put limits on what I was able to achieve. Camp soon gave me the opportunity to hang out with other teenagers who understood, literally, the highs and lows of living with diabetes. Camp changed how I felt about myself. As a camper, seeing 90 other campers, and later over 400 campers by the time I was a staff member, over the course of a single summer run around camp, I realized that nothing could stop any of us. I was not alone, but rather we were in it together. I was able to openly talk about my diabetes without worrying about anyone judging me. After only two weeks at camp, I knew I wanted to work at Huronda one day! Year after year, Huronda was feeling more and more like my second home.

Camp provides a place for children with Type One to come together. It provides an opportunity for those who may not know anyone else with Type One Diabetes (as was the case with me, aside from my dad – but that didn’t count!) to be together with a community that understands and that is lifelong. Thanks to camp, I have met and connected with children from across Canada who share the same experiences as I do. I have acted as a role model for campers of all ages, being able to relate to children and teens living with diabetes and have come to appreciate older individuals relating to me when I was first a camper. Furthermore, together we have taken charge of diabetes and have never let it define what we are capable of doing. Diabetes education is often experiential where individuals learn how to better manage diabetes through sharing experiences. Children watch others test their blood sugar, and they listen to the doctor explain why they are prescribing a specific dose of insulin prior to a day out on the water. Children that go to Camp Huronda come away having gained a new level of independence in managing their diabetes, as they feel empowered to continue the healthy practices they learn at camp. At Huronda, children learn tricks to better manage their diabetes and learn to become more responsible for their well-being. It would be a long life ahead if a child did not become less reliant on their parents and accept diabetes as a part of their day-to-day life. Camp teaches exactly this. Camp is often where children first learn how to inject their own insulin, insert a pump site, count carbs, or recognize a high or low blood sugar. As a staff member, it is always a proud moment when a child gets recognized for giving themself their first needle.

Over the last decade, camp has provided me with a positive opportunity to not only learn and grow personally, but to share my strengths and talents with campers and staff, while acting as a positive role model. Working for the Canadian Diabetes Association and their camps has continued to offer new challenges, making my summers interesting yet manageable, given my dedication to providing a meaningful camping program for both the campers and staff. Camp allows me to build on skills and foster positive social and emotional growth. Today, as staff and for campers, camp continues to help us develop the courage to try new things, build new friendships, and create enduring memories. Being on staff has put me in a uniqueposition to influence the life of each and every camper, acting as a positive role model and developing rapport, ensuring every child feels loved, capable, and included. 

Every child deserves the chance to go to camp. Set the kids free for a summer! They will thank you later.