Camp Needlepoint: A Counselor Living without Diabetes

‘Merica Ben

Hello everyone, my name is Ben Putrah. I am the younger brother of, the ever so popular, Piper Putrah.

I was approached by Tony Gand to write a blog on what diabetes and camp means to me. Honestly, I can’t even express into words what camp and diabetes mean to me.

I was 9 years old when my sister was diagnosed with diabetes, that was 14 years ago. Up until 4 years ago, I knew that my sister had diabetes and that it was a life long illness but other than that I knew she had to test her blood and watch what she ate; that was the extent of it.

I remember it like it was yesterday, I was sitting in the kitchen at my parent’s house and my sister asked me to work at camp. On the way to camp I was very nervous, it’s a long drive to Park River, North Dakota, to think about what I may have gotten myself into.

Turned out to be the greatest experience of my life. I have never felt the way I do at camp. All of the kids I worked with and the staff I worked with have forever impacted me. Being a person living without diabetes, I was the outcast. I wasn’t treated like that at all though, I didn’t know what an A1C was or what a good blood sugar or a bad blood sugar was. I knew next to nothing about diabetes. I had so many questions but every time I asked a question, it went answered.  Throughout the course of two weeks I probably asked at least 50,000 questions. It must have been sickening to the other staff and kids but they all answered them. They knew I was there to learn more about diabetes.

After the first week at Camp Sioux, Becky’s camp aside from Camp Needlepoint, I expressed my gratitude to everyone. Now I have cried pretty hard before, but I don’t think I have ever cried as hard as I did when I thanked everyone for including me into the diabetes family. Most of all, I wanted to thank my sister for giving me that opportunity to go to camp. Second week came and went and Becky asked me if I wanted to work at Camp Needlepoint in August, I immediately said yes before she could even finish her sentence.

Camp Needlepoint is much more different than Camp Sioux. 1: The camp is significantly bigger and 2: You are responsible for more kids. It was challenging but equally as incredible as Camp Sioux. Camp Needlepoint is when I acquired the nickname ‘Merica Ben, for my admiration for the U.S. of A. Also, I always ended everything with a hardy ‘Merica! Parents I may be the reason your child walks around at home and says ‘Merica.

Anyways, back to camp and what it means to me. As I said before, I can’t express into words what it means to me. The reason I keep going back though is simple. I have created a connection with your kids and my fellow staff, but most of all I have created a connection with my sister; that couldn’t have happened without going to camp. Below I have included a letter my sister wrote to me my second year of camp. I think you will understand why I go to camp and will continue to go to camp.

In closing, I couldn’t imagine my life without camp. In all honesty, sometimes I wish I had been diagnosed with diabetes so I could have gone to camp for as long as my friends have gone.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this. Have a great day! ‘Merica!

Ben Putrah

To my brother Ben,

Our family has always been so close. Our parents raised us to always be there for each other and to stick by one another regardless of the situation and because of that you and Bo have always been my best friends.

When I got diabetes it was the same way. Our family came together to support me and you were all there for me. When I was in the hospital I remember Mom and Dad making the decision that I was going to be completely independent. They would help when they needed too but I was going to be able to do this on my own. So from that day on I did everything, I counted carbs, tested my own blood sugar and took my own shots. I never made excuses and our family never let me. You and Bo were both so young when I got it that neither of you really learned much about it, I wouldn’t talk about it with you and I wasn’t going to let you help me. I felt so misunderstood and I started to resent you for being healthy. Diabetes was my disease I shut you all out and I dealt with it alone.

Last summer when Becky needed a last minute fill for male staff at Camp Sioux. I thought of you right away. I never dreamt in a million years you would actually come. Driving to camp with you I was so nervous. At first because I knew if you screwed up that would be on me but second because we never really talked about diabetes before. I always acted like two different people. Someone who had it behind closed doors and someone who didn’t in front of my friends and family. I was ashamed.

After the first week of camp last year you made a speech at the end of the week that changed my whole perspective on keeping diabetes private. You were so grateful to be here and so proud to be a part of our diabetes family. After you pulled me aside, you hugged me and told me you loved me and that I could always come to you. I have been doing that ever since. I didn’t feel ashamed anymore and the wall I had up came down.

This last fall I really struggled with my control. I landed myself in the hospital with DKA in September the day before you turned 21. I know you spent your birthday alone because Mom and Dad were with me. I remember when I called you in the hospital to wish you happy birthday and I felt so terrible that I ruined your special day but all you said to me was, “it’s okay Pipe. I don’t care I just want you to get better.”

You are one of the most amazing people that I know and I would be so lost without you. It’s so nice to have you be here by choice because you truly want to make a difference for the people around you. Your strength and determination to push people to their limits is so admirable. I wish I could be more like you in that way. The people you surround yourself with are so lucky to have you. I never want you to forget how strong you are and how much you’ve done for me. You have the ability to change lives. You changed mine. I am so fortunate to have you as my brother! I love you!

Love, Piper

2014 EXPO Meet the Chef: Tiffany Derry

The Grand Tasting Area is a multi-layered world class sampling of appealing diabetes-friendly foods created and served by Novo Nordisk Diabetes Education Program Celebrity Chefs: Chef Tiffany Derry, Chef Rory Schepisi, Chef Doreen Colondres, and Chef Dana Herbert. Each chef will be paired with a Novo Nordisk Diabetes Educator delivering educational focused on healthy eating and meal planning. Healthy eating does not have to be boring but vibrant, full of life and flavor! Groups will be admitted into the Grand Tasting Area every 15 minutes from 11:00am – 1:30pm.

Meet Chef Tiffany Derry:

See Chef Tiffany Derry at the MN Diabetes EXPO on October 11

With humble beginnings in hospitality, Tiffany Derry has fired up the culinary scene from Dallas, Texas, where she built her TD Concepts brand and company from the ground up. Tiffany found a love of cooking at an early age and later graduated from The Art Institute of Houston, Texas. She went on to become a national spokesperson for the school and a sought-after sous chef at several regionally acclaimed restaurants. Tiffany’s natural ability in the kitchen and her colorful personality made her an obvious choice for Bravo’s “Top Chef,” where she was voted fan favorite in Season 7. This recognition earned her a spot as a contestant on “Top Chef All-Stars,” where she made it to the final-four round. With a personal family connection to diabetes, Tiffany has also made it her mission to educate people about healthy lifestyles and portion control. She has worked tirelessly to revamp the Dallas School Districts lunch program with more nutritious options. In blending nutrition with flavor, Tiffany stands by one rule in her kitchen, “make it taste good or forget it!”

Click HERE to read more about Tiffany and the other chefs that are going to be at EXPO.

To learn more about MN Diabetes EXPO and register click HERE.



Camp Needlepoint & Daypoint: Memories From Becky Barnett

Hello blog readers!
I want to thank and commend the YPLC group for coming up with the idea of a camp blog series!  I am honored that they have asked me to contribute.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to talk! And even more so about ADA CAMP NEEDLEPOINT & DAYPOINT!  This summer will mark my 27th summer at ADA Camp Needlepoint in one form or another.  The following poem I wrote is dedicated to my family, each and every camper and staff person that makes the camp experience what it is and of course my dear friend, ADA CAMP NEEDLEPOINT & DAYPOINT!

Happy Trails!

Becky Barnett

Camper 1988-1993
Counselor 1994-1998
Counselor-In-Training Director 1999
Camp Director 2000 and beyond!

I Remember

- I remember the day I was diagnosed
- I remember how sick I looked, how much weight I had lost, how I had dark circles under my eyes, how sad I was
- I remember the finger pokes I so greatly despised, how I’d throw my finger poker on the floor with such anger and how I’d refuse to test my blood sugar
- I remember screaming, blood curdling screams that filled the house, as my dad held me down and my mom did my shot
- I remember the bright blue and purple bruises the shots would sometimes leave on my body
- I remember how I hid my diabetes from my friends
- I remembering walking down the street to the local gas station and scarfing down two candy bars before I got home so my parents wouldn’t know
- I remember how I’d cry at night wishing it would go away
- I remember thinking I wanted to die

And then I remember Camp Needlepoint

- I remember that first year I went and my parents said I came back a different kid, a happier kid
- I remember I could poke my own finger and I didn’t seem so mad
- I remember showing my mom and dad how now I could do my own shot
- I remember taking so many pictures of my new friends, the campfires, the horses, being on trail and so much more
- I remember learning that I could have a candy bar as long as I took insulin for it
- I remember how after camp I told anyone and everyone that I had diabetes and about my wonderful camp
- I remember whispering to my sister at night telling her about my camp adventures
- I remember how camp made me feel strong, camp made me feel normal and camp made me feel confident
- I remember how I couldn’t wait to be a counselor one day

And then later

- I remember as my heart seemed to stop when my family told me my little brother Tim had diabetes
- I remember being in shock and disbelief
- I remember how despite the sadness in my heart I said, “You’ll be ok.  We’ll be ok”
- I remember when my brother attended camp for the first time
- I remember it was my first time as the camp director

And then even later

- I remember the phone call from my sister
- I remember how she could barely speak
- I remember how she said “It’s Cece…”
- I remember thinking “NO! She’s not even two years old!”
but saying “What was her number?”

And I remember how we cried

And then I remember Camp Needlepoint
Where those of us who live with diabetes,
learn to be proud,
get to feel “normal”
and most of all, for at least a little while

… we get to forget.

Camp Needlepoint: The Greatest Place I Know

“The Greatest Place I Know” is a special phrase to a common song sung at the American Diabetes Association’s Camp Needlepoint. Normally this song is sung around the camp fire, after meals, and within cabin groups. Campers and counselors alike know this song, and most could agree with me that the verse of “The Greatest Place I Know” absolutely represents our feelings towards this special place.

Next month Camp Needlepoint will open its doors for a 57th consecutive year, hosted at the beautiful YMCA Camp St. Croix. For many Camp Needlepoint is something that they look forward to all year, and rightfully so. Camp Needlepoint is a place to relax, reconnect with friends, learn something about yourself, and more importantly a support network.

When my parents signed me up for Camp Needlepoint in 2004 I did not know what to expect. This was the first time I was leaving home for longer than a couple of nights, and I will admit I was nervous. I was a Frontier Sailor my first year, and I was assigned to Cabin 1. I still remember walking up to my cabin for the first time. I remember telling my mom, “This is exactly what a summer camp looks like in the movies!” My first year at camp was filled with a mixture of homesickness, but also pure enjoyment of what I experienced. Sailing, hanging out with my cabin mates, and play all camp games were some of the major highlights of that first year. From that point on I was a camper until 2007, and became a counselor from 2008 till 2012. During my counseling years I had the privilege to meet some of my closest friends, learn about myself, and give back by trying to give the best possible experience of Camp Needlepoint to my campers.

Last year I was approached by American Diabetes Association Executive, Director David Becker, to lead a brand new group called the Young Professional Leadership Council (YPLC) for the purpose of increasing support for the fight against diabetes within young adults. Since accepting this position, we have developed a diverse group of young professionals ready to make a positive impact on people living with diabetes. Some of these YPLC members even have experience as campers, counselors, and even medical interns. Each of these young professionals are eager to move this organization forward, and are excited about making positive changes within the ADA of Minnesota and North Dakota.

One of our first initiatives as the YPLC is to support Camp Needlepoint through engaging with families, corporate sponsors, and spreading the word about the Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes in late September. When the YPLC began to discuss how to present a different perspective of Camp Needlepoint, we jumped on the idea of a blog series. Over the course of seven weeks the YPLC will be sharing stories, perspectives, and insight on Camp Needlepoint. We believe that these stories and perspectives need to be shared because of how inspirational they really are.

We encourage you to read and share these blog posts on social media, because we want everyone to read these stories and perspectives of Camp Needlepoint. On behalf of the YPLC, we are excited to be a valuable partner in supporting Camp Needlepoint. Camp Needlepoint is truly the “The Greatest Place I Know”, and we are excited to start sharing these stories with the world.

Sean Finn
Camper 2004-2007
Counselor 2008-2012

A Blog Post from our Sponsor, Medifast MN

We Are Now Proudly Partnered With the American Diabetes Association!

In the United States alone, nearly 30 million people are diagnosed with diabetes, and thousands more are diagnosed every year.  It’s a disease that can affect anyone, but with the right information and action, we can prevent the growth of diabetes in our communities and defeat diabetes.

We want to help you feel great and be great.  Our Medifast for Diabetes Program can help you get healthier and start living life to the fullest.  All Medifast meals are low glycemic and safe for people with diabetes. The program focuses on cutting calories while maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.  The Medifast program also focuses on behaviors that might be triggers for overeating, like low blood sugar levels, stress, and anxiety. Our program is ideal for people at risk for diabetes as well.  By losing weight and being active, you can fight off diabetes and feel great doing it.

We have partnered with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to fight against the deadly effects of diabetes and increase awareness and support among the community.  Our specialized program offers assistance that can help lower your risk for diabetes or manage your symptoms.  By supporting our clients to develop healthier eating habits and encouraging good fitness habits, we can work toward a world without diabetes.

If you think you might be at risk for diabetes, check out this great assessment and see what sort of action you should take to lower your risk.

Our new partnership has inspired us to take new strides to defeat diabetes.  The ADA has a number of upcoming events in the area to raise money, raise awareness, and raise spirits.  Be sure to mark you calendars!

  • Step Out:  Walk to Stop Diabetes on Sept. 27, 2014 and September 26, 2015
  • Tour de Cure – Twin Cities on May 30, 2015 and in Rochester on September 20, 2014 and September 19, 2015
  • Diabetes EXPO – October 11, 2014 and October 10, 2015
  • American Diabetes Association Gala – At Treasure Island Resort & Casino on May 2, 2015


Thank you again to Medifast MN for being a sponsor and promoting our events!

Post taken from:

Get to Know Your ADA Minnesota Staff: Barbara Harris

Employee: Barbara Harris

Position: Specialist

“I have a passion for the American Diabetes Association.  The work we do is very important to me.  I lost my dad to complications of the disease and my brother has type 2.

I wear several hats in the American Diabetes Association office.  Some of them include:  Office Manager, assistant to Gala Coordinator and Executive Director and Office Volunteer Manager.

Outside of work, I enjoy being a daughter, sister, mother and grandmother and good friend!  My family life brings me much enjoyment.  Fortunately, all of my family lives in town and I spend a lot of time with them.  I do enjoy a busy social life with friends, too.  I usually take several weekend trips and at least one cruise a year with friends and/or family.  With work, family and friends, I am blessed with a full and wonderful life!” -Barb

Thanks for all you do, Barb!

Barb with her mother, daughter, and granddaughter.

Get to Know Your ADA Minnesota Staff: Judy Edgren

Employee: Judy Edgren

Position: Specialist

“I have worked for the ADA for 15 years.  I have a daughter with Type 1 diabetes who was diagnosed at the age of 6 years old.  She has been pretty healthy most of her life, but has had complications from her diabetes the last couple of years.  That is why I am passionate about finding a cure.   I have been a participant in the Duluth Step Out: Walk event for 3 years and have been a Champion to Stop Diabetes for 2 of them and enjoy this event.   I have worked on making this event a success, as I help get the event ready each year.

Outside of work I enjoy being with my family and friends.  I like Fishing and Camping.  We have a place up north we go to a lot.  I like shopping for bargains when I have time.  I have a great husband  and spend most of my time with him, we have been married for 35 years.” -Judy

Thanks for all you do, Judy!

Judy was a Champion for Step Out Walk 2013


Get to Know Your ADA Minnesota Staff: Carol Holten

Employee: Carol Holten

Position: Specialist

“My journey with the American Diabetes Association began in 1986 after my daughter Katy was diagnosed at 6 years old with type 1 diabetes.  I wanted to help my little girl live with this disease any way I could so I started volunteering for ADA in the Minnesota Area office as a facilitator for a Diabetes Support Group for parents of school – age children.  I also raised money for diabetes research as a volunteer with the Gift of Hope Program for over 20 years.  Katy is the reason I am dedicated to help Stop Diabetes.

I joined the ADA staff in 2004 so I am celebrating my 10 year anniversary this year.  I have the pleasure of working on Camp Needlepoint & Daypoint our Minnesota camps, and Camp Sioux in North Dakota.  I also work on our Diabetes Expo and support other ADA programs.

When I am not working, I love to travel and spend time with family and friends, including my four grandchildren.” -Carol

Thanks for all you do, Carol!

Carol with her daughter

Get to Know Your ADA Minnesota Staff: Molly Duerr

Get to know your American Diabetes Association Minnesota staff!

Employee: Molly Duerr

Position: Associate Director

“My first experience with the American Diabetes Association was in 1995 after I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and attended Camp Needlepoint. I had the opportunity to attend Camp Needlepoint as a Camper, Counselor and on Medical Staff. In 2003, I joined the American Diabetes Association staff in New Jersey and in 2004 transferred to the Twin Cities American Diabetes Association. I am very fortunate to have the friends that I have made at Camp through the years support me as I live with diabetes day to day as well as in my job with the ADA. I coordinate the Diabetes EXPO and Healthcare Professional Breakfast which takes place each fall at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the American Diabetes Association Gala in the spring, and I also work on Corporate Sales for our office. When I am not working I am busy with my two young, active sons.” – Molly

Thanks for all you do Molly!

Molly with her husband and 2 boys

JOIN TEAM RED for Step Out!

Jeff Peterson, Team Red Captain for Twin Cities Step Out Walk

Approximately five years ago, I hadn’t been to the doctor in years. I’m a guy, and we don’t worry much about that stuff.  I finally made an appointment, though, because I was just not feeling right. I never used to pay attention to what I was eating, drinking, or anything else for that matter. Yeah, my parents had diabetes, but so what? That was never going to be the case with me.

They had asked me to come in a week before to do some blood work since there was nothing in my charts from the past. The doctor walked in to the exam room, opened the chart, and the first thing he said was: “I’m sorry to tell you, but it looks like you have type 2 diabetes.” You could have heard a pin drop, and my heart fell into the pit of my stomach.

Fast forward to six months ago, and I was at a Chamber of Commerce meeting where various companies were setting up booths to showcase their products and services. I happened to walk by the American Diabetes Association’s booth, and they had a display showing how much sugar was in foods and drinks I consume all the time – I was shocked at what I saw. It was at that point that I finally came to grips with my disease and chose to do something about it.  After speaking with Jacqueline Reding, who was representing the Association that evening, I decided that it was time I did something to help educate others about this disease. So, I joined the Twin Cities Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes Committee.

You can live with diabetes once you realize that it is never too late to change your ways.  Having this disease should not mean thinking, “Woe is me.” It should mean taking care of yourself and taking action – It’s time to step up to the plate and knock diabetes out of the park. I am excited to take the lead as Team Red Captain, because all those living with diabetes and participating in the Step Out should be honored and celebrated. I also encourage everyone to join the walk in order that one day, no one else will ever again have to hear the phrase that changed my life: “I am sorry to inform you that you have diabetes.”

– Jeff Peterson, Team Red Captain for Twin Cities Step Out

If you have diabetes, YOU are a Red Strider.

Join Team Red today – Because together we can stop diabetes. One step at a time.

For more information on Step Out and Team Red, visit our website:

Or contact Jacqueline Reding, Walk Coordinator for the Twin Cities:, (763) 593-5333 ext. 6598.