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Diabetic son finds fun, friendships at BB Camp By: Jura McIlraith

Jack O’Neill was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2016, at the age of three. Since then, his mom, Erin Montgomery, has picked up a part-time job at Jack’s school to help administer his insulin, as she does four times a day.

Montgomery also helps monitor his blood-sugar levels throughout the night.

 

That’s why it was a relief when Montgomery was able to send her now-11-year-old son to B’nai Brith — or BB Camp — with the help of the Sunshine Fund. There, Jack is surrounded by others living with the chronic autoimmune disease.

“I’m in no financial position to be able to afford the camp fees, so we’re incredibly grateful,” said the self-described “full-time single and part-time working” mom.

“Jack’s such a keener; he looks forward to making connections. He didn’t know anybody going into camp and he came back with a ton of friends.”

 

Last summer was Jack’s first at the camp located in the Lake of the Woods.

 

He was supposed to go in 2022, but got sick and had to cancel on the day he was scheduled to leave.

 

Montgomery said it was the “heartbreak of the summer,” as her son had been looking forward to going since January that year.

 

Jack said it was great to be someplace where Type 1 diabetes is understood. All the camp counsellors either live with the disease or work in health care and are able to meet his needs without his mom having to worry.

 

Type 1 diabetes has no cure and can be caused by genetics or some viruses. The condition impacts the pancreas and it’s ability to make insulin, a hormone that helps the body turn sugar into energy.

 

“It was amazing,” said Jack. “There’s so many people that just understand what diabetes feels like. It’s just a really nice place, in general.”

 

The camp offers canoeing, kayaking, a ropes course and leads a polar bear swim, where campers wake up early in the morning and jump into the chilly lake water.

 

“My favourite is probably the climbing wall,” said Jack. “And you can’t forget about the talent show, which is really fun.”

 

Jack put on a magic show for his new friends last year. It’s something he enjoys doing for his friends back home, too.

 

Montgomery was initially nervous about sending Jack away for five days and four nights. Jack is a bit of a picky eater, she said, and she was worried knowing he was going to be really active and out in the sun.

 

But when she picked Jack up at the dock, he gave the food a 10 out of 10, saying it was the best he’d eaten in his life.

 

“I could take a few tips from the camp,” Montgomery said with a laugh.

“If it was me, as a kid, I would have never gone to sleep-away camp not knowing anybody,” she said. “He’s already so brave every day with his illness that I applaud his courageous warrior spirit.”

 

Jack will go to BB Camp during the third week in August, after spending a month with his dad in Calgary. He’s excited to see friends he made last year and to make new ones, too.

 

Montgomery said it means a lot to know there is a place where Jack can go and have some independence and she doesn’t have to worry about him through the night.

 

“It’s, like, the safest place he could be,” she said. “It’s a relief.”

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

June 21 2024.webp
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NIC ADAM / FREE PRESS

Jack O’Neill and his mom, Erin Montgomery, are grateful he can visit BB Camp.

HOW TO DONATE

Send cheques to the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, c/o Unit 6-1110 Henderson Hwy, Winnipeg, MB, R2G 1L1

You can also call in with a credit card number to 204-784-1130. Donate online at sendingkidstocamp.ca by clicking on the “donate now” box and then going to the fund’s Canada Helps donation page.

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