My journey with diabetes started almost 4 years ago when I volunteered as a medical intern at Camp Needlepoint. I was born and raised in Marine on St. Croix, which is just up the river from camp. After graduating this past May in Biomedical Engineering, I now work as an engineer at a local medical device company. I am actively involved in the Society of Women Engineers, The American Diabetes Association and absolutely love anything related to the outdoors; spring, summer, fall or winter. One of my biggest passions though is molding together happiness and health through medicine. I came into camp 4 years ago in with little knowledge of diabetes, no knowledge of the biochemistry of it all and no idea how to even care for someone with diabetes. What I ended up learning and gaining from my Camp Needlepoint experience though, was absolutely invaluable.
I had no knowledge of diabetes, no friends or family with diabetes, and no idea where to even go on my first day at camp. I quickly found out I was not the only first timer, as I saw children crying and still clinging to their parents as they were being dropped off. New challenges and places are scary for everyone, whether you are twelve, twenty or fifty. What Camp Needlepoint taught me though, was that you are not alone, there are people that are going to help you no matter what your circumstance is, no matter how lost and alone you feel. I saw old campers welcoming new counselors, counselors welcoming families, and medical staff welcoming new campers. It was a never ending circle of inclusion and I had never felt as quickly welcomed into a family as I had at Camp Needlepoint.
Working in the medical office not only acclimated me to the basic sciences of diabetes, but it also opened my eyes to a life with diabetes. With hundreds of kids constantly running, swimming, hiking and climbing, the medical staff saw their fair share of highs and lows throughout the week, literally. The beginning of the week started off rough, many campers were here for the first time with barely any knowledge of how to manage their diabetes. We experienced countless tears and tantrums during the day in our office, as well as scared and restless nights as campers were away from home for the first time. However within days, and sometimes even hours, those tears turned into smiles and those tantrums turned into laughter. One girl specifically, put in her own set for the very first time. We saw something deep down light up inside her, a whole new confidence and happiness as she walked out of our office. She ran out back to her counselor and bunkmates to spread the good news and instantly they all cheered and congratulated her on her new accomplishment. This is exactly how camp is though. No matter the feat, no matter the obstacle, your counselors, your medical staff, and even your bunkmates are going to welcome you, encourage you, and support you.
During my week at camp I gained not only knowledge and awareness, but friends. Sadly I could not stay involved with camp as school and internships kept me busy throughout college. I stayed in contact with friends though, and this ultimately led to my involvement with the YPLC this year. I am beyond excited to get back to camp and see all those kids again. Whether they were hiking, sailing, camping, horseback riding, or tie-dyeing, these campers felt like they were at home. Camp Needlepoint is a family that will always be there for its campers, counselors and medical staff; to give them confidence, independence, and most of all, a family.
– Jessica Springer