Heroes Among Us Series
The “Heroes Among Us” story series will be released twice monthly, featuring local heroes and organizations that exemplify the Totally Texas, All American spirit that is the fabric of the Gainesville Community. Stories are contributed by the City of Gainesville, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Gainesville Economic Development Corporation, Gainesville Independent School District, and North Central Texas College. Keep an eye out for the stories and see who we celebrate next!
Release is coordinated by the City of Gainesville.
Heroes Among Us
The Gainesville area is not short on organizations who lend a helping hand. We can’t think of a need that isn’t met by one of these organizations and that leads us to our next hero among us, Camp Sweeney, that focuses on a very specific need: Type 1 Diabetes in children.
In 1947, the non-profit corporation Southwest Diabetic Foundation was founded. Its sole purpose was operating a residential camp for children with diabetes. Just a few years later in 1950, Camp Sweeney opened its gates for the first time under the direction of Dallas endocrinologist Dr. J. Shirley Sweeney. Today, Camp Sweeney is the largest camp for children with diabetes in the world, having served more than 30,000 campers from ten countries and 40 states since inception.
We are fortunate to have such a camp in our neck of the woods, with such a simple mission they accomplish year after year: to build a family that can help to support campers through all of the highs and lows of Type 1 diabetes. Week long camping sessions focus on practicing good diabetic control, making it a normal way of life, so that every child no longer believes that diabetes makes them different. Normalization is crucial in developing a treatment regimen for any child with diabetes and management skills are learned at camp and become a normal part of daily life. Lifestyle enhancing programs are taught to build confidence and empower campers to make healthy lifestyle choices. And, confidence is not short on the list of items to be instilled in campers. They’re encouraged to seek the good in themselves and each other.
The continued success of the camp could not be accomplished without their attentive and devoted staff. Counselors, medical students and physicians, program assistants, nutrition staff, and office staff are the hearty backbone of the camp. Counselors come from all over, to serve as doctor, nurse, parent, teacher and friend to their campers. Not only do they oversee blood and other related tests, they coordinate activities and events. To add to it, they live alongside their campers! They gain experience, but more importantly, they make a difference in the lives of the children.
Campers heavily rely on a highly-trained staff of medical students and physicians to manage their diabetes. Camping doesn’t come without any other unforeseen illness, injury, or emergency and the medical staff is on hand to address those issues, as well. Students have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned after their first year of medical school to real life.
Program Assistants prepare and operate a vast range of activities for campers. From maintenance to event coordination, these selfless workers provide the support necessary for each camper to have an incredible experience at Sweeney. Because Program Assistants operate in two teams on rotating weeklong shifts, most are DFW or local college-aged students who commute to Camp Sweeney.
The nutrition staff plays a vital role in the Camp Sweeney process. Around 15 people are hired each summer to prepare meals for campers and staff. The days are long and shifts begin before breakfast and end after cleaning up supper. Most staff live in the surrounding communities for easy commute. Both experienced and inexperienced kitchen workers are encouraged to apply. Finally, the support provided by the office staff is invaluable. Their duties are not limited to administrative tasks such as data entry and client communication – they also prepare camper shirts, roll call sheets for each day, maintain social media profiles and so much more.
Here’s how you can make a difference! Operating Camp Sweeney is a costly endeavor. Without the generous donations of individuals, corporations and foundations, Camp Sweeney could not continue a 60 year tradition of educating young children about diabetes in a caring, supportive and fun environment. Most of the campers receive “campership” or financial aid. No camper has ever been turned away from Camp Sweeney because of ethnicity, religion, nationality, or financial limitations.
You can sponsor a child to attend camp for a full or partial camping session, using their secure online form, or by sending check or money order to them. Call or email them for find out more at (940) 665-2011 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations to Southwestern Diabetic Foundation, Inc., a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization, are tax-deductible. Sponsorships are available for full three-week summer session, one week, one day, or any other amount you’d like to give!
The 2019 camp kicked off June 9th and will wrap up August 9th.
Story contributed by Caitlyn Huddleston, City Secretary, City of Gainesville