Past Features

October 11, 2005 (Vol. 2, No. 3)

Community Collaborations: A Summer Camp with Real-Life Learning

Montefiore Hospital Children's Pediatic Diabetic Summer Camp at Lehman College.
Montefiore Hospital Children's Pediatic Diabetic Summer Camp at Lehman College.

The following is the first in an occasional series of articles in Lehman E-News that focus on the College's many forms of outreach to the community.

Lehman's APEX has been the stage for highly competitive athletic events, a center for the training of Olympic athletes and the backdrop for summer camps that are popular with the community. This past July, it became the setting for a unique collaboration between the College and the Children's Pediatric Diabetic Unit of Montefiore Hospital. A special summer camp, customized exclusively for diabetic youngsters, offered entertainment and education in an environment free of any stigmatism. Campers with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes used many of the APEX facilities, including its Olympic-sized pool, state-of-the-art gymnasium, and modern classrooms.

Classroom sessions were taught by staff members of the Pediatric Diabetic Unit and enabled the youngsters to learn skills they need to maintain their quality of life, while enjoying traditional summer camp activities. Topics included the importance of exercise, the value of reading food labels and the proper use of the insulin pump.

According to Mathelyn Claudius-Santiago, R.N., "The campers were individually selected so they could be in a comfortable environment while learning to come to terms with the demands of their illness." One sixth grader, a Tai-Kwon-Do student who earned his Blue Belt, felt that the pool was "the best thing about camp." Another camper—an aspiring football player—was impressed with the Lehman cafeteria and said that the food was "really good."

Patricia Appel of Montefiore's Pediatric Social Services explained that Type 2 Diabetes, which used to be called "Adult Onset Diabetes," is now affecting more children, and the chance of getting this form of diabetes is significantly increased by weight gain and lack of exercise. With the right opportunity for education about their condition, she said, "The campers are going to lead normal lives." When the children finished camp and return to Montefiore for maintenance, she added, the staff of nurses and doctors will be familiar faces who are no longer defined in one particular role.

Michelle Moch, a 1994 Lehman graduate who earned her master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was part of the camp team and served as its dietician. Working at Montefiore allows her to specialize in the specific area of her choice, adolescent diabetes, and to work on the obesity issue with public school children in the Bronx.

When Montefiore approached Dr. Martin Zwiren, Director of Athletics and the APEX, with the idea of putting together the camp, he saw an opportunity to reach out to the community in an innovative way. Overcoming the technical details and cutting through the red tape, he helped to make the camp a reality. Montefiore and Lehman are working to put together a two-week camp next summer.

Meanwhile, for the youngsters, the skills they learned at camp are now part of their daily lives at home and school.