YMCA On Our Team

My Y story began far after I was of the age to canoe at summer camp or enjoy an after school arts programs. It began on October 30, 2007—the day my then 6-year-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

It was Halloween in Exeter. While kids were applying face paint and donning outlandish costumes, Jacob and I were in an ambulance headed to Children’s Hospital in Boston.

After a week-long hospital stay, we went home. Prescriptions and instructions in hand, we began educating our family, friends, schools—everyone who had contact with Jacob in his day-to-day routine. They became part of Jacob’s team—embracing the opportunity to support him and us as we settled into Jacob’s new lifelong reality.

The months flew by, and the New Year began. We had a great team caring for Jacob, and he felt safe and trusted those around him to help him in managing his disease. And, as the summer camp registration forms began to roll in, he looked forward to spending a summer outside exploring.

I stayed close to home when choosing a program—I work from home part time, so I can easily help in Jacob’s care. By mid-February we had chosen a program. It was close to home and promised lots of outdoor exploration. One more call to finalize details and we’d be set—or so I thought. After a month of discussions about Jacob’s care and my willingness to be available at a moment’s notice, the program’s Board decided that they weren’t prepared to care for Jacob. My heart sank. Summer programs were filling up and this program had seemed ideal. I hung up the phone and began searching online for more options. SDYMCA/Camp Lincoln came up.

I had heard about it through a friend, but I hadn’t considered it an option: Kingston, after all, is 15 minutes away, at best—outside of my comfort zone at the time. And was I emotionally ready for weeks of discussions with another program to convince them that we’d work together to keep my son healthy and safe?

I picked up the phone and left a message on Camp Director Jeff Gleason’s voicemail. No more than 15 minutes went by and my phone rang. It was Jeff. After a brief introduction, Jeff simply said to me, “Send Jacob to Camp Lincoln—we’ll take care of him.”

I vaguely remember the other details he shared—full-time camp nurse; great, responsible counselors; etc., but I didn’t need the details. “We’ll take care of him” were the words I hung on that day. They were the words I needed.

Jacob is now 12. He’s attended Camp Lincoln since the summer of 2008. And while it was Jeff’s simple statement that convinced me to sign up, there are far more things that have kept Jacob, and now his younger sister, Annelise, returning year after year. For them there have been mountain biking camps, cooking camps, epic card games, spirit paddles, counselors that remember them year after year and whom they are genuinely sad to leave at the end of a session. For me there have been thoughtful, attentive camp nurses and counselors, and the witnessing of Jacob take increased responsibility for his care in an inspiring, confidence building setting. But even more than this, what I’ve most appreciated is SDYMCA/Camp Lincoln’s sincere willingness to be part of our team.

It’s this sincere commitment that moved me to join the Board. And it’s this commitment that excites me most about our organization’s plans to build a facility in Exeter. It’s our opportunity to share with more families, individuals, and the community in general those things that my family has experienced: an organization that works to build positive experiences and genuine relationships with those around them. (Tweet this!)

By Carole Matthews, Southern District YMCA Board Member

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