A girl, about 4 years old, is at camp for the first time, her eyes sparkling. But it's not the crafts or games that trigger her interest. It's the other kids who are similar to her.
Kim Boaz Wilson, executive director and camping director for Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma, said the child was amazed that everyone at camp had diabetes.
“I have diabetes, too,” the girl said. “I have diabetes just like you.”
The walls of Wilson's office are lined with 20 years worth of photos of children smiling as they enjoy time at diabetes camp. According to the Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma website, diabetes is one of the main causes of death in the state and affects the individual's health as well as the family and community.
Wilson recently spoke about the nonprofit and the programs it offers to help those who endure the daily struggle of diabetes.
Q: What is your history?
A: We were organized in 2000 when we became a nonprofit organization. We were organized as a community of practice trying to unite professionals from various organizations in order to accomplish what no group could accomplish alone.
Q: What is your mission?
A: Our mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes in Oklahoma and to reduce the incidence of diabetes and its complications through education and behavioral research.
Q: What education and research are you doing?
A: Educational work takes place in many different formats, whether it's a camp setting or an individual setting. I do work with patients who have Type 1 diabetes. I am a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator, so I work one on one throughout the year with people who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The behavioral research that we do is based on things that we see take place with our campers. We also work with various other people who contribute to our educational program. We do a Sack of Solutions, which is a bag put together that has educational material in it that we give out to newly diagnosed children and teenagers with Type 1 diabetes.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: I first started going to diabetes camp in 1994. I originally started out as the camping director and became the executive director in 2005.
I have Type 1 diabetes and have had it for 41 years ... so not only do I walk the walk, but I also know how to talk the talk, and that makes a difference. A lot of kids and young adults respond to me differently than what they might with other health care professionals simply because I have Type 1 diabetes. I get it. There are a lot of health care professionals who don't get it.
My philosophy is I worry about care, not cure. I haven't seen a cure yet, and although we all hope one day there will be a cure, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it. I focus more on how to have a successful life living with diabetes and I let the researchers worry about finding a cure.
Q: How many people do you serve?
A: Last year we had 166 campers and 44 counselors and medical staff. We handed out 50 Sacks of Solutions and had around 1,100 people sign up for our e-newsletter.
Q: What are some of your programs?
A: The longest and most sustaining program has been our summer camp for our kids with diabetes. We also do ski trips for kids and other educational programs for people and health care professionals with diabetes.
In 2009 we started Camp NoHiLo, our day camp for kids ages 4 to 10. Then we have Camp Endres, which is our camp for 13- to 18-year-olds. The activities are age-driven. For our younger group, we do a lot of constant activities to keep them busy all the time such as games and arts and crafts. By keeping them busy, they are not just having fun, but also watching others and learning from others who have diabetes just like they do. They feel like they fit in, they feel normal.
Q: What are some upcoming events?
A: Our first big group event will be the family picnic May 3. We're starting a new camp this fall for adults with Type 1 diabetes. You're never too old to have fun and meet other people with diabetes. There's a lot of benefit to people who get into group socialization. Even as an adult, we can still get that peer support by being around people who understand the daily struggles. A lot of campers are going to be people who went to camp together when they were children and kind of lost touch with one another. Now as adults, they can be reunited and rekindle old friendships.
Q: What are recent successes?
A: One of the biggest things was that we were able to get a grant through the Helmsley Charitable Trust. They are interested in improving diabetes care and diabetes life as well as conducting research for a cure.
Q: How is the Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma hoping to impact Oklahoma in the future?
A: Our vision is to change the culture of diabetes in Oklahoma. That would mean educating more people, getting more people aware of the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and getting physicians to know more about treating Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Q: What are your needs?
A: Our ongoing needs are donations to help run our programs and to sponsor kids to go to camp. We do offer a lot of scholarship funding for kids to attend. My first priority is to get kids signed up and at camp.
HOW TO HELP
Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma
3333 NW 63, Suite 100, Oklahoma City, OK 73116.
There are a lot of reasons why kids go to camp. They love the activities and they love the fun, but really what is so important about it is that when I ask what their favorite things about going to camp are, the number one response is the people. Everybody has diabetes and everybody gets it.”
Kim Boaz Wilson,
Executive director and camping director,