Camp Sweet Life began sprouted as a dream one mom had for her daughter to connect with another girl her age…
Kristin Schmidt came to the clinic with her daughter, Hanna, in the spring of 2010. When the appointment was almost done she asked, “Do you know of another girl about Hanna’s age that she could meet?” Kristin hoped that her daughter could find another girl her age; maybe they could talk about what it was like to be the only one in their family to have to check blood sugars, go to the school nurses station, take insulin with every meal, count grams of carbohydrate in foods, and understand what it’s like to feel different. Robert Larson and Vickie Parsons tried to come up with a name on the spot, but found they were at a loss. Kristin provided consent to give her name, “If you think of anyone, please give them my name and phone number, we would love to hear from another family”.
The next morning, Jerry Joyce came to the clinic with his daughter, Cecelia. Cecelia and Hanna looked like cousins and both had Type 1 Diabetes! Jerry said he’d be happy to call Kristin, but maybe we could do a local gathering for other kids with diabetes, even incorporate a day camp experience. Jerry was a Boy Scout Leader and had experience with outdoor activities, and even knew where there was a local camp near St. Peter that would be able to accommodate the needs of a day camp experience.
The dream that Kristin voiced, for her daughter to meet with another child who had diabetes close to home, was one that resonated. It was beyond what Dr. Larson and Vickie Parsons could provide in a clinic setting. Many of the children they see with diabetes are the only child in the school that is dealing with these demands and they understood how isolated the children and families felt.
Vickie made a cold call to Rene Maes, local Boy Scout Director at Twin Valley Council, and the ball was now in motion. The group of health care providers, adults with diabetes, and parents dedicated to helping their children; met weekly to plan for a single day camp experience. Parent gathering and support groups had been started in the past by Kristin Schmidt and Karen Snay, but at the time it was difficult to maintain momentum. An initial work group was started including all of the above, along with Melissa Lembke.
As the kids were enjoying their camp experience, parents also had the opportunity to connect with each other. The first year’s parent session included speakers from JDRF, Mary Powers- local school nurse, Mary Taylor-registered dietician, and two young adults with Type 1 Diabetes; Morgan Rohr and Kaylee Gronau. Both Morgan and Kaylee had years of experience with diabetes and at diabetes camp.
In July of 2010, Camp Sweet Life was established. The day camp was held at Camp Norseland and nearly 20 children with diabetes played field games, made rockets, sang songs, and performed skits. The evening “all-camp” family meal fed 70 people. Building on the success of camp, the grassroots board decided that these kids shouldn’t have to wait all year to see each other, so the year-round “Adventures” idea was created to keep the campers in touch with each other.
In 2011, Camp Sweet Life officially became a 501(c) 3 non-profit and changed its name to Camp Sweet Life Adventures, Inc. Camp was moved to Camp Patterson on Lake Washington and added one over-night for the campers age 8 and over, and continued with the day camp format for kids ages 5-7. Year three of camp expanded to a three day, two night camp and had forty five campers! New in 2012 was a DJ with a camp dance, all of the campers had a blast.