Not Your Average Summer Camp


When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At the time I was diagnosed, I was rail thin, weighing in around 35 lbs, was falling asleep during the middle of school, and was guzzling water like air. After spending the night in the hospital, my parents and I learned the ins and outs of what became my new life… insulin shots multiple times a day, blood sugar checks even more times, and a diagnosis that left me feeling isolated and insecure. But not for long.

Only a few months after I was diagnosed, my parents sent me to a summer camp for kids with type 1 diabetes (T1D). At camp, I met kids my age, kids who had similar interests as me, kids who also had type 1 diabetes. For the first time in my young life with diabetes, no one asked what the insulin pump hanging off of my basketball shorts was. No one blinked when I tested my blood sugar. In fact, every single kid was testing alongside me, pricking their finger, feeding the small drop of blood into the hand-held machine, and waiting five seconds to see if the reading would be too high, too low, or on track. For once, having type 1 diabetes was the norm.

It was almost unspoken, the connection we all had. We knew just by going through a few days together that even if we had nothing else in common, we all understood each other on a level that no one else could. We knew the daily challenges of T1D, the struggle to explain the ins and outs of a complex medical condition to those “on the outside”, the feelings of frustrations with ourselves when our blood sugars weren’t in range, and the constant notion of being a human pincushion to the needles delivering the medication that would allow us to live another day. The friends I made growing up at diabetes camp have remained my closest friends today. Not only did camp give me the tools and education to live a healthy, strong life with T1D, but it gave me the people who helped me stay strong; the people who have always had my back and lifted me up when I needed it.

Diabetes camp gave me my family, and I am forever grateful. Today, I work for the organization that hosts the diabetes camp I grew up at. My greatest joy in life is seeing the moment a new camper realizes what they have found at camp, the moment they realize that T1D won’t stop them from doing whatever they wish in life. The moment they realize that they’re not alone.


Read more from Kelsey here.

WRITTEN BY Kelsey Tullis, POSTED 09/01/18, UPDATED 10/29/22

Kelsey was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999 at 7 years old. She has worked and volunteered for numerous camps for children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) including Gales Creek Camp, Riding on Insulin and the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp. Kelsey joined the Chris Dudley Foundation full time in January of 2016 as the community relations coordinator. Fun fact? Kelsey has been to eight Taylor Swift concerts!