Building bonds at Diabetes Day Camp in Marco Island

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More than 200,000 Americans are living with Type 1 diabetes. All of them younger than 20-years-old. The number of patients and the cost of the disease is climbing.

Every year in the United States, about 40,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes and that includes the kids at Diabetes Day Camp Marco YMCA.

Veronica Fernandez, 13 years old, said it is good to know she is not the only teenager having problems with diabetes. She has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 8-years-old. Keeping up with that medical malady is a constant job.

“You have to take care all the time,” Fernandez said.

It is a job Fernandez and kids like her share at the Marco Island camp. But, their parents are glad they have the opportunity to share their experiences, including Stacey Pace, whose son, Anthony, also goes to the camp.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teens and young adults. People with it have a pancreas that is not making insulin or it is making little of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include blurred vision, clamminess or difficulty concentration.

“Type 1 is completely life-changing,” Pace said. “Just his insulin alone is $700-800 a month.”

Affording the medication is a problem that thousands of parents across the country face.

Right now, the price of a vial of insulin is about $350. The average price nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, according to the American Diabetes Association.

By the year 2050, more than 5 million people in the US are expected to have diabetes, including 600,000 kids. More of these camps are going to be needed in the decades to come.

That is one reason Tami Balabage leads the “The Help a Diabetic Child Foundation” in Southwest Florida. She said it is her third summer.

Her non-profit helps families find affordable medication it. It also plays a role in starting the YMCA diabetes camp.

“They form bonds,” Balabage said. “They make friendships. They learn from each other.”

It is something kids said they would not soon forget. For those not there, Fernandez has a message for them.

“Treat people kindly who have it,” Fernandez said. “Don’t make fun of what they have on their bodies.”

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