We’ve previously featured the multi-sport Diabetes Training Camp located in Lancaster, PA, that’s focused solely on fitness for people with diabetes of all ages. But a lot has changed over the past five years since our last writeup...

The camp now has an umbrella foundation established just last year that will help expand its offerings, including an exciting upcoming “boot camp” for teens and their parents, and new programs under development for the adult T1D community and for people with type 2 diabetes.

Without further ado, here’s an overview of what's new with this unique program from DTC founder Dr. Matt Corcoran who’s both an endo and certified diabetes educator and runs the organization. He has quite a bit of personal passion to share...

 

On Growing a Diabetes Fitness Camp, by Dr. Matt Corcoran

By way of introduction: Diabetes Training Camp is a week-long camp that happens twice each summer (June and August), bringing in 25-35 adult type 1s from across the country and even the world to south-central Pennsylvania. Our focus is on multi-sport training in running, biking and swimming, as well as general fitness tied in with D-management education. Professional coaches work with campers to reach whatever their fitness goals may be, and there's also an emphasis on camaraderie and peer-support.

In 2016, we established a Diabetes Training Camp Foundation to further our mission and to help reach more people and increase attendance at camps and other programming. We have a volunteer staff and are now working on development programming and fundraising to reach our growth goals.

Looking back over the past 10 years since DTC was founded in 2006, I have been fortunate enough to meet, educate, and learn from hundreds of amazing people with type 1 diabetes. Campers have provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime -- to do what I am meant to do. They have taken a leap of faith and believe that something different really exists at DTC, and that difference may be exactly what they are looking for. 

Our camp IS different. Which is probably why I have heard time and time again, 'You can’t do that.' But we can, and we do. And, I know we are on the right track.

What began as a vision to provide an advanced course for athletes with diabetes has been transformed into a vision to provide a fitness and training resource for all levels of athletes with diabetes. DTC has the knowledge and expertise to meet every level of athlete, including those pursuing remarkable feats like Ironman and beyond.

But we believe there is an athlete in everyone, and that the ability to feed the athlete (mentally and physically) translates directly into diabetes control, whatever the pursuit -- from couch to 5K, or endurance events.

At camp, change may happen slowly and over time.

Sometimes, campers adopt their newfound strategies quickly and with great resolve. A transformation occurs right before our eyes. There is nothing more rewarding than that. What was once a maddening experience of chasing numbers transforms into a thoughtful and proactive management style of predicting outcomes and confidently predicting success.

Earlier this summer, fresh off of our June camp, I was greeted with a message from one of our camp’s newest alumni, Nate, a 25-year-old from Springfield, MO, who was diagnosed with T1D eight years ago and has struggled with workouts since. He wrote: "Still feeling the motivation all the staff and new alumni helped inspire in me, and wanting to let you know that I am thinking of you. Camp was a real game-changer for me. One of the best experiences of my life… and I am going to tell my endocrinologist to tell every single one of his patients about it. He’s one of the good ones, and he’ll be ecstatic that DTC did so much for me!”  Nate’s message is a powerful one, and he gets what many clinicians struggle to see: that DTC is for the majority.

Through all of this over the past 10 years, myself and our DTC team have certainly learned some valuable lessons, including that two core qualities are key:

Perseverance: Type 1 diabetes certainly presents its fair share of difficulties, obstacles and discouragement… remarkably, on a minute-to-minute basis. That is what makes our campers extraordinary. They get up again, and again, and again. For some, it is part of their genetic code, a resolve. For many others, it is the transformation from operating in isolation to the beauty of tackling the challenge within a community of people and experts who get it. It is the belief that there is a way to manage it, to control it. To own it.  

Toughness: You may know this, but T1D is synonymous with toughness. Nothing evokes toughness like the integration of fitness and/or sport training. Exercise, training and sport insults homeostasis like nothing else, and it demands an immediate physiologic compensation, an adjustment that the human body is supposed to be able to perform on its own. But it needs working beta cells among other things to do so. Enter toughness.  

I have learned that toughness and perseverance are contagious. Diabetes Training Camp is a powerful force that fuels itself on an exchange of toughness and perseverance between staff and campers. Our team of experts is comprised of an incredible array of talent, many of whom have already been to the mountain top. Most are volunteering, or earning much less than their true value, but they persevere for the greater good. They check their egos at the door, and enter camp with the singular goal of changing lives, one camper at a time. They do so, year after year, demonstrating their own incredible supply of toughness and perseverance.  They have a purpose, and the campers feel it. The campers have a purpose too, and the staff feeds off of it. There is an incredible, unspoken exchange that transforms a camp within 48-72 hours, culminating in a powerful show of respect from one group to the other as both groups stand and cheer for the other by the end of a camp.

Continued Growth: Perhaps, most importantly, what I have learned from DTC over the past 10 years is that we MUST continue to:

  • Grow and offer the opportunity for more people living with diabetes to attend our camps. 
  • Get the word out that PWDs can live the life they want to live.
  • Support the reality that our campers can do anything - that their diagnosis doesn’t have to hold them back from thriving.  
  • Bring our community to the full realization that they are not alone. 

The newly-created Diabetes Training Camp Foundation will continue to raise funds and awareness to ultimately get more people into our programming and allow us to introduce more services and products to people living with diabetes.

In our new 3-5 year planning being mapped out, we’re excited about launching new programming to begin reaching a broader audience – including adolescents and people with type 2 diabetes.

Here’s what we have lined up:

  • On the weekend of Sept. 15, we are piloting the first new program since the foundation formed: a Teen Boot Camp. It's an immersive and intensive weekend for teen athletes and their parents filled with education, fitness, community and mental skills coaching to manage T1D while exercising and training, and also to take training to the next level. We have a highly qualified team of experts including pediatric and adult endos, an exercise physiologist, registered dieticians, CDE’s, a social worker and mental skills coach to deliver unique programming to facilitate open and healthy communication between teens and parents. Cost for each teen is $175, subsidized in large part by the DTC Foundation.
  • We are preparing to deliver fitness and educational programming to the type 2 community and those that work with them. 
  • We look forward to becoming a year-round resource for our community, including multiple week-long fitness and multisport camps for adults with type 1 diabetes. 

And that’s just a taste of what’s to come for Diabetes Training Camp.

Another one of our 2017 camper’s wrote to us recently: “I can’t say enough how much this (camp) means to me. Because of camp, I’ve learned to fish vs. just receiving fish to eat.” It’s hard to put a price tag on that.

Cost and Access to Camp 

Speaking of price tags, we know that diabetes care is costly -- in many cases, the expense of living with type 1 diabetes can exceed $1,000 per month, with annual costs of $13,000-$15,000.

We certainly don’t assert to have an immediate answer to this problem, and we do not intend to compound it. Still, we believe the combination of peer support and knowledge obtained during the DTC experience can help balance out that financial side of the diabetes equation.

We continue to offer an incredibly unique experience at cost of $1,700-$2,500 per person, which covers food, lodging, all equipment and staffing needs. And we’re proud that almost all of our campers agree strongly that their camp experience was well-worth the cost and that they would come back -- indeed, about 25-30% of campers return from all parts of the United States and world.

Finally, the big lesson I’ve learned over the years is that working with others as a team to change the lives of people living with diabetes is what I am meant to do. I am so grateful to be granted that opportunity by our amazing community.

 

Thanks for everything you do, Matt, and we're looking forward to seeing the new expanded efforts of the Diabetes Training Camp!

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.