January 18, 2000. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. Type 1 diabetes hit me like a ton of bricks. Thousands of questions filled my mind about the future. Wouldn’t be able to ride a motorcycle? Could I go camping and backpacking? Would I be able to eat normally again? All of us who join the family go through a similar experience on that day. That day is known as one’s diabirthday. On forms I’d often put “dx 2000” as some cold remembrance of that day in Y2K. A diabirthday seems way more human than saying “dx 2000.” The human side is where the joy in the journey always starts.
Shortly after moving to California six months after diagnosis, two vectors in my life came to a confluence. Obviously, I was a new diabetic looking for support. I also knew as a teenager that many just older than me invested their summers as a camp counselor for me. I wanted to give that opportunity to kids who came behind me. In July 2000 I became known as “Camper Dan” in a fluke conversations about camp rules on campus and is a nickname that still persists 16 years later.
I found the good fortune to work at five different camps throughout my 20s and 30s. Each camp has its own unique personality but in some ways we’re all the same. Camp DJ Sequoia Lake was the first camp I really fell in love with. It was nestled deep within the Sierra Nevada mountain range just outside of Kings Canyon National Park. I loved waking up to a lake on those cool mountain mornings. About five years ago that camp closed and I joined a different gang down in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Camp De Los Niños. De Los is out in the redwood trees just outside of Santa Cruz. Over the years I’ve always heard about Bearskin Meadow. It’s quite similar to Sequoia Lake and has a lot of the things I loved about that camp. With the recent acquisition of Diabetes Youth Families now running Camp De Los Ninos, I was able to join the DYF alumni reunion at Bearskin Meadow. I was part of their band.