Zebra Crossings

year 2, week 20:  this week i'm gonna... help children with chronic medical conditions

Imagine for a moment that you have Type 1 diabetes. You are dependent on insulin injections for the rest of your life, and you must monitor your blood sugar 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You prick your finger with a needle ten or more times per day, and you are on your own to decide how much insulin to give yourself when high, or how much sugar to take in when you are low.

You cannot eat, sleep, work, exercise, study, or socialize without thinking about your diabetes and how your actions, so normal to everyone else, will affect your blood sugar. You have to calculate how many carbs are on your plate before you can eat. You have many days when you don’t feel well and can’t participate in things your peers are doing. You may even wear a bulky device to make insulin delivery easier, but must explain it to everyone who asks.

Now imagine a young child living this way. He may be too young to worry…but he is embarrassed. Annoyed. Different. He visits the school nurse daily. He sits out at recess when his blood sugar plummets from a game of tag. His insulin pump beeps in the middle of a school-wide assembly. He has to call home for the carb count when someone in class has a birthday party and serves cupcakes. His parents chaperone every cub scout meeting or baseball game, so they can keep an eye on him and make sure he is safe.

But for one precious Saturday a month and two fabulous weeks in the summer, all of this goes away. At Zebra Crossings' adventure days and camps, the burden of chronic illness is removed for kids and parents. Kids living with Type 1 diabetes and other chronic medical conditions are brought together for fun and community; Zebra Crossings keeps their campers safe and well, while also making them feel normal, empowered, and part of a very special and supportive group.

 
 

Zebra Crossings’ mission is to enrich the lives of youth with chronic medical conditions by fostering greater self-confidence, a sense of independence, and a desire to realize their full potential through fun and engaging enrichment programs that build a strong and caring support network for families. Whether it is a week-long camp or weekend activities, care is always provided by trained medical staff. Zebra Crossings aims to lessen the burden of chronic medical conditions by connecting kids through play and giving respite for caregivers.

Zebra Crossings' activities are conducted at various camps, facilities, and state parks throughout New Hampshire. They offer youth and teen programs (including overnight retreats and summer day camps) for children with a variety of chronic medical conditions and their families. Medical conditions include (but are not limited to): asthma, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, heart defects, hemophilia, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, severe allergies, and skin conditions.

Zebra Crossings also offers three specialty programs:

  • Camp Spinnaker - a one week overnight camp program for youth with asthma ages 8-12
  • Camp Blue Sky - a weekend retreat for families who have a child with Down syndrome
  • Heart Family Camp - a weekend retreat for families of children ages 2-12 with a congenital heart defect

The Bevan family, Amy and Miles at right

The Bevan family, Amy and Miles at right

Amy Bevan first learned about Zebra Crossings three years ago from a relative who volunteered for the organization. Her son, Miles (then six years old), had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about four months earlier, and the family was struggling with the high demands of managing his disease.

Amy had to measure every bite of food Miles ate, wake up several times a night, worry about leaving him with a babysitter… and the list goes on. It was a challenge for her to let Miles out of her sight unless absolutely necessary. But from the very first Saturday the Bevan family visited Zebra Crossings in Dover, NH, they felt comfortable leaving Miles in the care of the volunteer nurses and staff.

Miles having fun at camp

Miles having fun at camp

Amy explains, "Zebra Crossings understood his complex disease, and knew how to respond in the moment if his blood sugar went too high or too low. We watched him laugh and run and play with other kids like him, and we knew he was in good hands."

Zebra Crossings was the first organization in the region to provide year-round, medically supervised programs for kids with chronic illnesses. Their programs are intentionally designed to develop each child’s skills, boost their independence, and reduce anxiety based on their condition. Zebra Crossings is often the only program where kids can participate without any supervision from their parents. 

"When Miles is at Zebra Crossings, he can forget about diabetes for a good part of the day," states Amy. "He has medical personnel to help him with his everyday tasks and he is surrounded by kids who understand what he goes through – many of them living with the same or a similar burden."

Zebra Crossings also provides crucial support and respite for parents. Amy explains, "We get a much-needed break from carb counting, blood sugar testing, and most importantly, worrying."

At Zebra Crossings, every day is a new adventure, whether it’s snow shoeing in winter, canoeing in summer, building a go-kart, or playing team-building games for fun. Kids are able to play, explore, and form lasting connections with other kids with health challenges. Above all else, Zebra Crossings is a place where a kid can be a kid.

 
Zebra Crossing campers

Zebra Crossing campers

 

Notes for this week:

  • May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month!
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor three youth for one week of day camp.
  • For more information regarding Zebra Crossings, please check out their website.
 

this week i'm gonna donate to Zebra Crossings.

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