FENTON, Mich. (FOX 2) - Maybe you have memories of summer camp that include campfires, cabins and mosquito bites. One summer camp in Michigan has all that with something extra for kids dealing with diabetes.
Director of Camp Midicha, Mark Walsh, knows well what it's like for kids with type one diabetes. He was diagnosed at just 6 years old. Now he's in his 15th summer at the camp in Fenton working with kids.
"I think it's the best place on the planet. You sit in that dining hall and know the fight that those kids fight every day, and to see them all dancing and singing and being kids and have their diabetes taken care of," he says. "It gets the campers plugged into a community where they don't feel alone."
That sense of community made all the difference for former camper Reece Ohmer, who is now training to be a counselor.
She remembers how difficult it was to receive her diagnosis, and felt less alone coming to camp.
"That's the best part about it. We all know what we're going through, we all have that similarity that we all have diabetes," she says.
"The number of tears and hugs and just unbelievable emotion that comes from the parents when they pick up their kids at the end of the week, I can't even begin to tell you how many lives this camp changes on a yearly basis," says Dr. Michael Wood, the camp's co-medical director.
Having diabetes means, in simple terms, due to a lack of insulin sugar ends up in your blood. That leads to a life filled with finger pricks, injections and drugs or devices to manage this disease. These campers get help with that, too.
"If a child has never given their own injection of insulin, by the end of the week when they're here they're often doing their own injections. It makes it a source of pride for them, it's great for their parents who feel like the child can participate more now in their care. And so the hands-on learning on how they do their care is just phenomenal and it makes a big difference," Dr. Wood says.
And beyond gaining the knowledge, campers carry with them friendships that can inspire for a lifetime.
"If they can do it, I can do it too, you know. That's really been such a motivator. To be able to see such a young person take on something that's so difficult. It's really encouraging for yourself," Ohmer says.
Encouraging friends, sleeping in cabins and long days at the beach are all the norm at camp, where kids can do everything from jet skiing to horseback riding - with a watchful medical team always close by.
"It's just so much fun! They're playing all the good songs. And you're just having a good time with everybody!" camper Kiera Sweden tells us. "If you don't come to Midicha, you're just missing out! I'm sorry, you're just missing out."
The camp wouldn't be possible without fundraising events like the upcoming Tour de Cure. Join us Sunday, September 8 for the event on Belle Isle in Detroit. It's a bike ride, a run or walk - there's something for everyone - with 10, 30 or 60 mile bike rides, or a 5k run or walk. It all supports the American Diabetes Association's mission of fighting diabetes.