“The steps that we take today help others to take steps tomorrow,” said Trish Wilson, development director at Texas Lions Camp.
The Kerrville summer camping facility serves Texas children who have physical disabilities, Down syndrome and diabetes.
The camp has two one-week summer sessions designated for children ages 8-15 with Type 1 diabetes, an insulin deficiency disease that affects about 215,000 Texans below the age of 20, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.
Children from Southeast Texas and all over Texas are able to attend the camp at no charge, thanks in part to fundraisers like Southeast Texas Strides, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ty Terrell Track on Jimmy Simmons Boulevard next to the Shelia Umphrey Recreational Sports Center on the Lamar University campus.
On-site registration for the second annual Lions Walk for Diabetes Awareness or Southeast Texas Strides begins at 8 a.m. with a donation of $20 per adult and $10 for walkers under 15; a Strides T-shirt is included for each participant with his or her donation. Total distance covered will be five kilometer, and health screenings and information from local companies will be available to the public free-of-charge in the infield of the track. Walgreens pharmacy will be performing blood-sugar testing and blood-pressure checks, and other entities will have booths where diabetes information will be available, said Robert Blackburn, co-chair of the event. There will also be a live DJ on hand to provide music for the walk.
“The first lap we make is in silence because diabetes is a silent killer,” Blackburn said. “After that first lap, we crank up the music and start having fun.”
“This event is something that is simple; it’s easy, … it’s life changing … for those you’re raising money for — those at Texas Lions Camp,” Wilson added, adding that the event will change the lives of Strides participants as well, knowing that they are making a difference in children’s lives.
Texas Lions Camp provides diabetes-affected children with fun educational, social and physical activities during their stay in the beautiful Texas Hill Country in Kerrville, Texas, one hour northwest of San Antonio.
At the camp, the medical staff, which stays with the children in their cabins, performs blood glucose checks throughout each day and educates the children on diabetes and how to live with the disease, Wilson said. There is also a dietician on staff to teach the children about healthy eating habits and how to limit their diet to diabetes-friendly meals.
“It starts to teach them how to take care of their daily living and teaches them life skills to be able to maintain and control their diabetes as much as possible,” she said. “When they go home they’re able to help their parents and family understand, ‘this is something I can live with, but we have to work together.’”
But the camp leaves plenty of time for fun and exciting activities as well.
“We have over 500 acres of sheer heaven for kids,” Wilson said. “They can horseback ride, swim, paddleboat, kayak and canoe. We have a climbing wall and upper elements that they can walk 30 feet up in the air on telephone poles. It’s an adventure waiting to happen.”
In addition, Wilson said the camp offers recreation that enhances the children’s appreciation of the arts — offering arts and crafts, music, and drama activities.
Probably one of the most beneficial aspects of the camp, however, is the opportunity for children with Type 1 diabetes to meet others who have the disease.
“They feel sometimes like they are the only person that has this disease, and they feel like they are alone … that it’s something they just don’t know how to deal with,” Wilson said. “But when they get to Texas Lions Camp … they realize that there are 200 children from across the state of Texas with the exact same disease right there. They immediately have an army of friends who know exactly what they are going through.”
Strides is an international activity with Lions Clubs throughout the world. There are 1.35 million members in 45,000 clubs and geographical areas. The District 2-S1 Lions, which includes Jefferson and Orange counties, make up a total of 16 counties and 17 clubs.
Texas Lions Camp week-long 2014 sessions are July 27 – Aug. 2 and Aug. 3-9. For more information on Texas Lions Camp and how to apply, visit www.lionscamp.com  or call (830) 896-8500. For more information on Southeast Texas Strides, call (409) 898-3797 or visit www.setxstrides.wordpress.com  or search Southeast Texas Lions Strides Walk for Diabetes Awareness on Facebook. Sponsorships are available. Current sponsors include Walgreens, Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas, the city of Beaumont and Jefferson County commissioners, among others.
“Strides is building awareness for those that suffer with diabetes," Wilson said. "Whether you have it or not, you know somebody who probably does. Make an effort to make a difference in their life today — and tomorrow. What you do today for someone else changes you forever."