Diabetes camp

Kids with disorder come as campers, return as leaders

Published: Friday, Aug. 25 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Parker said she took Edlin's idea and pitched it to her husband, Dr. Virgil Parker, who believed it to be a good idea. Getting together with Dr. Gerald Perkoff and dietician Frank Robles who also suffered from type 1 diabetes, the Parkers and a few others created Camp UTADA, and the next year took 14 campers to YMCA Camp Rogers in the Uintas. It became the first health-care camp in Utah.

"We really had people who were dedicated and loved them (the children)," Jackie Parker said.

Virgil Parker said the camp has been wonderful for children, because it teaches them to be self-sufficient as well as learn about their diabetes.

"Children used to keep their diabetes a secret, so seeing others with the disease gives them comfort," Virgil Parker said. "The camp gives them independence and shows them that they're not alone in the world."

Pediatrician endocrinologist, Marv Rallison started helping with the camp a couple years after the first session. He said the purpose of the camp was to provide a safe, medically supervised camp so parents knew their kids would be OK.

"The whole idea was to enjoy the camping experience safely," Rallison said.

Although the camp was a teaching tool for the children on how to manage their diabetes, it was also a place to teach them that they could have fun just like anybody else. Jackie Parker said every year was always "crazy, crazy fun."

From the small session in the Uintas in 1962, it has spawned into several summer camp sessions along with winter and family sessions. Werner said people continue to give their time because it gives them a sense of satisfaction to give back.

"Camp is a very special place," he said. "It's a disease, and you can't get rid of it."

E-mail: tdemasters@desnews.com