Kathryn Church of Lakewood participates with her friend Erin O’Hara of Maple Valley in one of the crafts activities at Camp Leo 2007
As Camp Leo 2007 wrapped up on Saturday some members of the Lakewood First Lions Club took a well deserved break & though not for long. More chores await the Lakewood service group. But while at camp the Lions pitched in with their labor to assure over 95 children with diabetes that their week at camp would be fun and educational and memorable. The emphasis is always on as much fun as is possible, given the seriousness of their affliction.
Kathryn Church of Lakewood waves at the camera as she sets out on a trail riding activity. This year was the first time horse-back riding has been included in the numerous activities at Camp Leo.
Along with the Lions Club was another Lakewood resident, Kathryn Church, daughter of Hank and Mary Church. Assigned to cabin three & the method by which the kids are organized & Kathryn quickly sought out a friend from Camp Leo 2006, Erin O’Hara of Maple Valley, and proceeded to jump into the busy schedule of activities. The Hudtlof Middle School student immersed herself in swimming, crafts, hiking, horseback riding, archery and games along with the other members of her cabin. Injected into the schedule are occasional chores and plenty of education about diabetes.
The primary purposes of the annual camp are to provide ongoing medical education and, perhaps most important, an opportunity to socialize with others facing the same medical problems. The social aspect frees the children from the isolation and misunderstanding that often dogs their every day in school and in their social circles. At camp, everyone knows the physical and social penalties that accompany the disease. At camp, that all vanishes as the kids openly discuss their experiences with diabetes and the stigma that surrounds it. At camp they can finally be just one of the gang and freely participate in all the activities, knowing that if they suffer a medical crisis everyone there will empathize and help, rather than just stare or whisper what can often be insensitive or downright cruel comments.
Registering for the camp requires a $50.00 registration fee as well as a $200 or $300 camp fee. However, no child is turned away for not having the funds for camp, although the registration fee must be paid. Local Lions Clubs, such as Lakewood First Lions, provide scholarships to the camp for needy children within their communities. The fundraising for Camp Leo has experienced considerable success and the goal now is to be able to do away entirely with the fee, (except registration fee will continue to exist) so that all kids attend free. Camp administrators also hope to expand attendance to a maximum of 120 in the near future, depending of course on fundraising successes. The major limitation is the size of the dining facility, and to expand enrollment the meals would have to be served in shifts.
Members of Lakewood First Lions were ready to roll on day one of Camp Leo 2007. Left to right are John Fitzpatrick, Sally Saunders, Nancieann Anderson, Diane Formoso and Dick Meier. At far right is Rena Larson, prep cook and kitchen organizer from Mt. Rainier Lions Club.
Lion Dick Meier of Lakewood has been the most vocal proponent for support of Camp Leo, and his presence at the camp is a taken for granted every year. Among the first to arrive and last to depart, his experience and knowledge have helped keep the dining hall schedule something less that chaotic. He, like almost everyone else working at the camp, is a volunteer. Even the camp doctor and all the medical staff are volunteers. The only paid individuals are the head cook and the lifeguards.
The camp is 7 days long for senior attendees and 5 days long for junior attendees. Among the most anticipated activities are the frequent campfire gatherings during which attending children sing songs and relate to the rest of the camp some of the painful encounters they have experienced because of the ignorance of adults and other non-afflicted children about diabetes. A part of the camp educational process is to provide suggestions on how to deal with the general and specific problems of public ignorance. The children are learning not only how to control their medical problems, but the difficult social experiences as well, and how to help educate those around them about the nature of diabetes.
For more information about Camp Leo or about joining a Lions Club in your community contact Dick Meier at 253-584-2207 or Ed Kane at 253-588-6637. District 19C website is: www.md19clions.org, and Lakewood First Lions website is: www.lkwdfirstlions.org.
Story and photos by Ed Kane, Freelance Graphics