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Camp gives youth tools to manage diabetes

20120614 Camp Energy lg-37-featureMISSION — Last week, the Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association (RGVDA) held a three-day, two-night youth camp on a privately owned ranch north of Mission with swimming, hiking, archery, canoeing, dancing, wildlife photography, arts and crafts among other fun and educational activities for the campers and it was all free of charge for the participants.

Diana Ramirez, executive director of the RGVDA, said Camp Energy is a summer camp open to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics 5-to-15 years old. The camp’s name is symbolic of the attitude the RGVDA is striving to instill in the children and young people that the camp was created to help, she said.

“It’s named Camp Energy because we want the kids to be motivated and full of spirit and full of energy, in other words to get energized,” Ramirez explained. “That’s how we came up with the name.”

According to its website, the RGVDA was formed in 2007 to provide diabetes education to the residents of Hidalgo County as an independent and local not-for-profit association. That allows the RGVDA to provide programs and services tailored specifically for this area and guarantees that all funds generated by RGVDA are used for the residents of Hidalgo County. It is the second organization of its type in the state.

On the first day of the camp, there were 27 kids registered, some from as far away as Laredo.

“We have kids here from Zapata, we have kids from Laredo, kids from Raymondville and from many other Valley towns,” she said. “Anybody that finds out about it and wants to come is welcome.”

While the campers were busy participating in the many activities scheduled throughout each day, the organizers and volunteers had specific goals.

“It is our hope that the kids will become more independent and that they’ll have a great time,” said Ramirez. “Also that they’ll see that they’re not the only ones with diabetes. That there are other kids with diabetes and that they’ll learn the independence that’s needed as they mature.”

Camp organizer and volunteer Chris Daniel, a Type 1 diabetic, said his personal goal of the camp was to empower the kids.

“At Camp Energy we get the kids together and show them how they can empower themselves against this horrible disease,” he said. “We show them what tools they have at their disposal and how they can take diabetes by the horns and control it rather than having it control them.”

20120614 Camp Energy lg-5As Daniel explained, diabetes awareness and education is especially vital in the Valley as residents here have one of the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the world.

“There are a lot of different statistics when it comes to diabetes, but the last information I’ve received is that we lead the globe in the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes,” said Daniel. “The Valley is rampant with Type 2 diabetes which is generally brought on by lifestyle and obesity.”

Daniel pinpointed that obesity is a contributing factor when it comes to Type 2 diabetes. However, most of the kids at Camp Energy do not have that problem.

“While we do welcome Type 2 diabetics, the kids that are here generally do not have the obesity problem,” he said. “Their bodies do not produce their own natural insulin so they have to inject or pump administer insulin on a regular basis.”

As a camp organizer, Daniel knows the important role volunteers play in the success of an event like Camp Energy; he was quick to acknowledge helpers make the camp possible.

Volunteers included the nursing program from South Texas College, Dr. Monzer Yazji who has provided his medical team to oversee the health and safety of the children, the Lions Clubs from Mission and McAllen, as well as volunteers from local school districts like the Sharyland High School Leo Club and students from Weslaco.

Thirteen-year-old Dionne Zavala was one of the first-time campers at Camp Energy. She enjoyed meeting others with diabetes and participating in the activities.

“It’s a really good way to meet other people that have what you have. We went swimming, we did arts and crafts and we got to know a lot of the people here,” Dionne said. “I want to come back next year.”

When asked what he thought about Camp Energy, 11-year-old first-time camper Cris Muñiz was estatic.

“It’s amazing, Camp Energy is awesome,” he said. “We did archery and I was the best shot of all of them, but someone else was close, too. Then after archery we went to the swimming pool and then we checked our glucose for the diabetics like me and then we ate dinner. Dinner was good.”

For more information on the Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association, visit www.rgvdiabetesassociation.org.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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