Camp Hendon® is “so much more than just a summer camp,” says Executive Director Megan Cooper. The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization provides a monthly support group for parents and caregivers, family weekends, and various other programs to support Type 1 diabetic youth through different ages and phases of the chronic condition. Kentucky’s first endocrinologist, Dr. James Robert Hendon, and his associate Gladys Powell developed a camp program for Kentucky children with diabetes in 1965. The American Diabetes Association® sponsored the organization through 2010 when the ADA exited the program in Kentucky. The camp was maintained and supported by volunteers until Camp Hendon® hired Operations Manager Lori O’Bryant as the first paid employee in January 2015.
2021 marks Camp Hen- don®’s tenth summer, returning post-COVID-quarantine at 75% capacity with physical distancing measures and some masking. Megan and the staff are hoping for more updated guidance by the time summer camps occur. “We are the only program of our kind in the state dedicated to Type 1 diabetes.” Megan, who has an MBA with a concentration in Entrepreneurship, joined the team in January 2017 after her husband (a Camp Hendon® donor) and a friend on the board encouraged her to apply.
“Camp Hendon® is about community and strong relationships,” says Fund Development Manager Wendy Williams. Wendy moved to Louisville in January from San Antonio, where she served as development director in the nonprofit world for four years. “When the kids are fighting tough battles and have anxiety, there is always someone there.” Wendy knows all about it, having been diagnosed herself at just 13 months old. She attended Camp Hen- don® since the age of seven and credits them with helping her become independent in managing her condition. Megan points out that diabetes camp is “a respite time for parents” as well, a whole week “away from that daily management” of Type 1 diabetes.
Wendy explains that as a 501(c)3 fully supported by grants and individual financial and in-kind donations, Camp Hendon® is an independent organization not affiliated with any other diabetes charities. The summer camp fee is $550, but the actual cost of the camp is $1700 per camper. Funding covers the $1250 gap and “camperships” for families in need of financial assistance. Out of 165 children and their families, Megan says, “approximately 40% won’t pay a dime.”
In addition to the summer camps, Camp Hendon® supports parents through the virtual support group held the second Tuesday of every month with specific topics and special expert guests. Camp Hendon® will host a teen retreat weekend September 10-12 at Camp Horsin’ Around, “specifically set up for medical populations” in Perryville, Kentucky. On Saturday, October 2, Camp Hendon® will sponsor a free day camp in Lexing- ton for 1st through 8th graders.