Camp Sweet Life – Diabetes Camp in Southern Minnesota

Scott & Dr. Larson
Scott & Dr. Robert Larson

Last weekend I bumped into an old friend.

I don’t even know how to properly convey the gratitude I have for Dr. Robert Larson.  He is the pediatric endocrinologist that took care of me and my diabetes for nearly twenty years as I was growing up.  Starting with me at age six or seven, going into appointments with me and my parents, all the way to me at age twenty-five and having to kick me out of his practice because I was getting too old.

In his defense, it was time to go.  Highlights magazine and those big wire frame toys with colored wooden beads were not quite my speed anymore.

Dr. Larson helped me with so much, and very little of it was the mechanics of diabetes care (after the first couple of years).   It was all about me as a person, growing up and learning about life first.  He helped me know my diabetes well enough that it stayed mostly out of the way.  He viewed me as the strong and motivated young person, rather than the rebellious and failing young diabetic person my inner critical voice had created.

Camp Sweet LifeThese days Dr. Larson is still helping young people to live well with diabetes.  He’s currently working in Mankato, MN, a city a couple hours south of where I am now.  In 2010 Dr. Larson helped start Camp Sweet Life.  A grassroots effort to connect kids with diabetes in southern Minnesota through a safe outdoor camp setting.

Year one was a single daycamp experience, ending in an all family cookout.  Year two, August 2011, camp expanded to an overnight and two-day camp.  Parents were able to stay for educational sessions, and younger children were offered a day-camp experience.  Activities at camp varied from swimming, archery, arts & crafts, tie-dye, and star gazing with their local planetarium expert guiding the way.

They are expanding to include many activities and year-round events in addition to camp.  This last year activities included fall hayrides, sledding, JDRF walk, and a back to school event at Wow Zone.  Earlier in November, Dr. William Polonsky (one of my favorite people in the world!) and Dr. William Tamborlane (Yale School of Medicine Pediatric Endo & Artificial Pancreas Researcher) came to Mankato, MN for a ‘Living the Sweet Life’ Diabetes Symposium.  I totally wish I would have known about this – I would have been there in a heartbeat.

They have a sledding event coming up on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at the Norseland Boy Scout Camp near Mankato, MN.  Keep an eye on their website ( and their facebook page for more information.

I’m so excited to watch this grow – I know it will be a huge help to many in the area.  I’m hoping to find some ways to help Dr. Larson and the group working on this.  It would be a fun way for me to show my gratitude and serve others with diabetes at the same time.

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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