KOKOMO, Ind. — What is happening at Jackson Morrow Park looks like just an average summer camp.
Outside the Kirkendall Interpretive Center, a group of children play a game with a bouncing ball on the pavement. At a nearby table, more children engage in crafts. Inside the building, it’s craft time, tying fleece together to create pillows.
This is no ordinary camp, however. It’s a camp with a purpose.
For 18 years, Indiana University Kokomo’s School of Nursing has hosted Camp Eeze-the-Wheeze for children with asthma, and Kidds Kamp for children with diabetes. Four years ago, it added Fit Camp for children interested in learning about health and wellness.
For fourth-year camper Molly Farkas, 10, being around others who have the same struggles with diabetes is a big deal. She’s learned a lot about managing her condition, and goes home with new knowledge each time.
“I learned how to take shots and how to draw up my insulin,” said Farkas, an Eastern Elementary student. “I’ve also learned not to use the first drop of blood for blood sugar testing.”
Traditional camp activities, like games and crafts, are combined with lessons provided by nursing students, who serve as camp counselors. They also learned athletic skills from IU Kokomo’s basketball, volleyball, and golf teams, as well as the cheerleaders.
“This gives kids a chance to experience fun-filled days, being able to enjoy the outdoors, while learning about their health and not feeling out of place,” said Lynda Narwold, dean of the School of Nursing and camp co-founder.
Mikaela Wilson, 16, serves as a junior counselor, after attending as a camper for five years. She wanted to work with the younger kids to set an example of how to manage asthma.
“It’s important for them to learn more about what they have when they’re young, so they can do a good job taking care of themselves the right way,” said the homeschooled student from Kokomo. “The lessons are interesting, and it feels like I learn something new every year.”
IU Kokomo student nurses prepare and lead the lessons, as part of a summer school class. Katie Berman, a junior in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, enjoyed the experience of working with children, because there aren’t many pediatric clinical experiences available.
“I think I’d like to work with children, and this gave me a chance to try it,” said Berman, from Noblesville. “We made teaching plans and fun activities for the kids, so they learn something while they are playing. I’ve helped some of them monitor their blood sugar, so we know when they need a snack.”
Kokomo resident Heather Anthony, a student in the R.N. to B.S.N. program, has always worked with adult patients.
“It surprised me how young they are to be so involved in their own health care,” she said. “Diabetes treatment is much different for children than for adults.”
Narwold said they spend as much time as possible outside, and every camper participates in the activities.
“Their health concerns don’t stop them,” she said. “They go outside and play and do the same things everyone else is doing.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.