To improve the lives of children with insulin-dependent diabetes through education, recreation, and support programs which inspire and empower.

The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc., located in North Oxford, MA, is one of the largest, independent camping and educational programs in the country dedicated to children who live with diabetes and the people who care for them. More than 2,000 children and their families participate in the programs annually, including the Clara Barton Resident Camp for girls, Camp Joslin Resident Camp for boys, Vermont Overnight Camp, coed Adventure Programs, Family Programs, and coed Day Camps in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Children with insulin-dependent diabetes are often isolated and singled-out because of this chronic disease. They are often the only child, or one of just a few children, in their schools and local communities who have diabetes. We hear frequent stories of children who are teased, left out of pick-up games and recess activities, not allowed to participate in organized sports, left at school when their class goes on a trip, and singled out by uninformed teachers, coaches and sometimes even nurses. The Barton Center summer and year-round programs provide support and education so that those who live with this difficult disease, including the diabetic child, parents, siblings and other caregivers, can more fully understand the daily requirements beyond the needed insulin. They develop a network of friends who understand what they are going through.

In addition to helping children feel that they're not alone, the peer interaction and mentoring by older campers and staff also provides campers with the opportunity to learn from one another about diabetes self-management. They discuss and observe things they may not have known or been comfortable doing and try new things. For instance, for the first time since diagnosis they may check their own blood glucose, give themselves a shot, or change their insulin pump site. Each “camper first” is announced and celebrated in the dining hall during their camp session.

Diabetes clinics and hospitals with pediatric diabetes units typically spend a few hours each year with their diabetic patients and families. During our programs we often spend from 48 to 288 hours with our campers and program participants. Staff have intimate knowledge and extensive experience in dealing with the daily and nightly issues of children with insulin-dependent diabetes; from checking blood sugars and counting carbohydrates to changing pump sites and dealing with patient non-compliance and acting-out behaviors. During our resident programs blood glucose readings are obtained before each meal, bedtime, and periodically at midnight and 3:00 am.

Approximately 50% of all campers apply for financial assistance for our programs. Awards are made on a sliding scale based on annual income and the number of family members. The scale is adjusted annually according to the U.S. Poverty Guidelines and Massachusetts Public Health Guidelines.

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