Camp Ivy, a nonprofit, one-week summer camp for children with diabetes, kicked off its activities Monday for the 30th consecutive year at The Calvin Center in Hampton.
Lockett, who was diagnosed as a diabetic in 1949 at the age of 12, says she grew up as the only one in her extended circle with the chronic disease.
“You grow up fending for yourself,” Lockett said Tuesday. “A lot of kids are made fun of because they have diabetes and have to take shots.”
While serving as the only person with diabetes on the American Diabetes Association, Lockett says she was always pushing for a children’s camp but to no avail. After being laid off from her job at the Keebler manufacturing plant in Atlanta because the company moved to Ohio, Lockett took a walk around the Presbyterian Church’s Calvin Center, a year-round camp and conference facility, to help ease her depression. That’s when she made up her mind what to do with her time.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it, but can I use it?’” Lockett recalled.
Now she spends six or seven months of the year pulling it all together for a week of organized fun and diabetes education for the children she refers to as “my kids.”
A pediatric podiatrist is spending the afternoon with the camp’s children and sharing practical information and advice on the early warning signs of diabetic foot problems. Thursday there will be a karate expert and Friday an internist is scheduled. A dietitian as well as a representative of Nordisk, an international leader in the manufacture and marketing of pharmaceutical products and services for people with diabetes, taught at the camp earlier in the week.
Everyone volunteers their time.
According to the National Diabetes Education Program, there are about 21 million people with diabetes and another 54 million people over the age of 20 with what is called pre-diabetes. There are three main types of diabetes - Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is the one diagnosed in children and young adults, and treatment usually involves the taking of insulin.
“The kids have to learn how to adjust to the good and the bad of it,” Lockett said while walking to the lake for the campers’ mid-day canoe trip and issuing warnings to stay away from the poison ivy. “We’ve had several low sugars this week and it’s only Tuesday. Most of them don’t know when it is low, but some do.”
One little boy was particularly grumpy Monday and Lockett asked him if he was mad at her.
“No, but I am low,” he said.
When his blood sugar level was checked, it was 45. The desired level is about 100.
Jody Tallman, a Spalding Regional Medical Center nurse who is volunteering at the camp, checks the children’s blood sugar levels regularly.
“I volunteered one day last year. This year I am here four days,” said Tallman, who brought along her 4-year-old son, Kyle, who does not have diabetes. “The hospital put out a flier asking for volunteers. When I heard it was for children, I wanted to come and see. I love it.”
This week, there are 20 children in the camp. Normally, Lockett says, there are more than 30. She blames high gas prices for the lower number. Since it is a day camp, parents have to provide transportation.
The youngest camper this year is 5, while the oldest is 20, and not all suffer from diabetes. Some are siblings.
“Children with diabetes don’t live in a world by themselves,” Lockett said. “Family members have to be able to recognize the symptoms and be able to help.”
While camp afternoons are filled with educational programs and crafts because Lockett says she tries to let the children wind down before they go home, the mornings are packed with physical exercise like biking, nature walks, canoeing and field day.
“We swim every day because any form of exercise lowers your blood sugar. Exercise is tremendous for anybody,” said Lockett, who also teaches diabetic education nine months out of the year at the Heritage Bank Community Room in Fayetteville.
The children will not only carry loads of fond memories with them when they leave on Friday, they will also have $200 to $300 worth of items like blood glucose meters, sunglasses and foot-care products that have been donated.
“This is what I prepare for all year,” said Lockett, whose husband of almost 54 years, Ronnie, also helps coordinate the camp. “My kids really seem to enjoy it.”