My son Andrew is the young man seated on the left, with the ear-to-ear grin. After 3 years as a camper at Camp Huronda, he is now a camp counsellor (or CDO – Chief Diabetes Officer). He is responsible for 4 to 6 young campers, all with type 1 diabetes, who will spend two weeks in the beautiful Huntsville area. If you haven’t heard of D-Camps or Camp Huronda, or know anything about type 1 diabetes, it is probably because this disease has not impacted your life as a parent, the life of your child (or children), and your entire family. The Canadian Diabetes Association generously funds D-camps across the country so that kids can have the opportunity to develop their self-esteem and provide experiences for their personal growth. Campers learn how to manage their life-threatening disease surrounded by experienced counsellors and medical staff while having fun and unlimited adventures.
I had no idea that D camps even existed before Andrew was diagnosed at age 13. I am grateful that kids like Andrew can experience what he calls “the magic of Camp Huronda”. I think it is more than magic though. As a teacher, I see the importance of preparing students for the world of work in the 21st century. These Generation Z’s attending D camp are learning to think and problem solve (manage a complicated disease 24/7 without their parents), use numbers (count carbs for all food eaten), work as part of a team (100+ people at camp), be responsible (diabetes never takes a day off), communicate effectively (with campers, cabin mates, camp counsellors, program and medical staff), and participate in projects/tasks (take part in a 4 day canoe trip including a portage). The skills that the campers are using and developing are many of the employability skills required in the workplace today as documented by the Conference Board of Canada.
Jay Gilbert, author of The Cabin Path, Leadership Lessons Learned at Camp, describes how his experience as a camper and counsellor at Camp Huronda helped him develop many skills including leadership skills, which are vitally needed not only in the workplace, but in all aspects of life. Gilbert says “that camp is about nurturing others – feeding their fire so that they can become better. We grow and develop into new people and are continually shaped by those around us. Camp gives everybody something different, and I cannot deny the fact that camp shapes people. The perspectives and attitudes I gained from camp set me up for success…”.
I am excited to see how these future CEOs and leaders will use their skills to inspire and motivate those around them to grow, develop and “all become better”. Of course we don’t have to tell our kids about all the skills they are learning just yet – we can just make sure that they experience the “magic” for now.
Gilbert, J. (2012). The Cabin Path. Leadership Lessons Learned at Camp.