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JDRF and Children’s Harbor

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The Importance of Community for those with Type One Diabetes

Dealing with a lifelong chronic illness can be an isolating experience that can take a toll on mental health. Type One Diabetes is one such illness that can make those living with it feel alone and unsupported. However, the reality is that there are many great communities where people with Type One Diabetes can find and connect with others who understand what they are going through. One such community is JDRF, or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Our Journey with JDRF

Our family first learned about JDRF during Kennedy’s hospital stay. Our social worker, Katie, mentioned that we would soon receive a package from JDRF and we were curious to know what it contained. When the package arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find Rufus, an adorable stuffed bear designed to educate children with Type One Diabetes about managing their condition with an interactive app. JDRF had also included books and information about T1D care that proved invaluable to us as we navigated our new reality with Kennedy’s diagnosis.

The JDRF community continued to impact our lives when we received an email from Jennifer inviting type one diabetic children for the first time to take part in Spring Break at the Lake at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin. Children’s Harbor is an organization that provides a range of services, including refuge, respite and resources, to families of seriously ill children in Alabama. Their beautiful facility on Lake Martin offers fully accessible amenities and activities for children and their families at no cost.

Children’s Harbor

We arrived at the Children’s Harbor campus two months after Kennedy’s diagnosis. When we arrived, Taylor was there to greet us with an overwhelming welcome. We were excited to be there and make the most out of the experience. Our cabin was comfortable, and the lake was a beautiful sight to see.

Family Fun

It’s a rare occasion to be able to bring the whole family together for an adventure, and we were beyond thankful to have experienced a weekend getaway with everyone under one roof. With Kennedy, having been recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we had some concerns about how we would be able to accommodate her needs while still having a fun-filled weekend. However, we were determined to make this trip unforgettable and suitable for everyone, including Kennedy.

Kennedy and her two older siblings, James and Addison, couldn’t wait for all the fun activities Children’s Harbor had planned. The great thing about Children’s Harbor is they are extremely accommodating but on the other hand they are hands-off, meaning your family can participate or come and go as much as you please. On the first day, we indulged ourselves in a wide range of activities, from playing sand volleyball by the lake to discovering the local wildlife, and even having a challenging game of after dinner putt-putt. Addison made sure that everyone remembered her hole in one. Our cabin was cozy and perfect for our needs, and we prepared ourselves for an even better second day.

The next morning, we woke up to a lovely breakfast, followed by a creative and relaxing arts and crafts session with Kennedy. We then enjoyed more of the refreshing outdoors, playing another round of putt-putt, before letting our hair down and engaging in some friendly competitive yard games. We explored campus finding the tree house and playing some basketball, with Addison continuing her reign of dominating victories. It felt like the perfect family day that brought us all closer together.

Kennedy had not tried pizza before, and as she was only recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we knew the importance of monitoring the carb count in her meals. However, we were all too delighted to witness her try her first pizza slice and conquer her fear, with everyone so proud and supportive of her achievement.

Our family trip was a nourishing and unforgettable experience, one that allowed us to bond and grow closer as a family, despite the challenges that come with diabetes. We learned new things about each other, and Kennedy proved how brave and thriving she could be, regardless of her condition. It was a reminder that moments spent with our loved ones are what keep us connected and treasured for a lifetime.

Witnessing Kindness

During our stay at Children’s Harbor, we had the opportunity to connect with families with all different chronic illnesses. Witnessing how these families dealt with daily obstacles and struggles to care for their children was truly eye opening. They did it all with grace, compassion, and resilience. It was a reassuring reminder that although Kennedy’s diagnosis was tough, we were not alone in this journey. While wrapping up the weekend we were talking with the Family Retreat Team and learned that they were planning to have the very first Type One Diabetes weekend ever coming up this summer. The weekend would host only type one diabetic children and their families. Kennedy could not wait for this, an opportunity to connect with other T1Ds.

We learned that everyone faces their unique challenges in life, and each person needs kindness and awareness. As the weekend at the lake came to an end, Kennedy was filled with new ideas about doing something for T1D kids. She wanted to share her story to reach anyone who was alone in their diagnosis and offer them support. We encouraged her to jot down her ideas, dreams, reflect, and plan. Little did we know that these ideas would turn into something beyond our wildest imaginations.

JDRF, Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Harbor’s community outreach has made a significant impact on our lives. Without their support, we would not have had the opportunity to attend Spring Break at the Lake and connect with other families dealing with chronic illnesses. The weekend provided Kennedy with a continued sense of hope and a desire to help others.

The support of a strong community can make all the difference when living with a chronic illness. These organizations offer a beacon of hope and a supportive hand to those in need. We encourage others seeking support to connect with these organizations and find a community where they can thrive.

Jen

Jen

Kennedy's Mom!

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