By Ernie Williamson The Bulletin
Patti Worfe was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 7.
Years later, her daughter, Paige, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also at age 7.
Although mother and daughter were dealt health challenges early in life, both were fortunate enough - albeit years apart - to find what Patti Worfe calls an “amazing and special place.”
Worfe and her daughter are among more than 70,000 Texans who, as kids, attended - free of charge - the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville.
Founded by Texas Lions Clubs in 1949 in response to the polio epidemic that changed the lives of many Texas children, the Lions Camp has changed focus through the years and now serves children with Type 1 diabetes (formerly juvenile diabetes) and all types of physical disabilities.
The goal of the camp, first started by Jack Welch, first president of Texas Lions Camp, is to provide an atmosphere wherein children with health challenges will be allowed to achieve maximum personal growth and self-esteem.
The Angleton Lions Club this summer is sending two youngsters with Type 1 diabetes to the camp. The Angleton Lions sponsor the youngsters’ six-day stay in camp through club dues, donations and fundraising.
This year there are two week-long sessions for those with Type 1 diabetes. Each diabetes session will have 200 campers. There are other week-long sessions for those with physical disabilities and Down syndrome.
“Lions Camp was a pivotal point in both of our lives as it gave us a confidence and compassion that kids need to understand that they aren’t different,” Worfe says.
”They taught us inclusivity before that was a word we even understood, and helped kids understand that there was nothing they couldn’t do in their lives, even if they had to do things a little differently.”
Patti Worfe believes the camp helped shape their lives into the people they are today. She is the first woman to serve as president and CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Brazoria County.
Her daughter is in law school and is considering, probably not coincidentally, studying disability law.
The Lions Camp operates in the belief that every child deserves a happy childhood. By inviting children to participate in activities they may have otherwise believed were out of their reach, the Lions Camp hopes to improve the self-esteem of those with disabilities and Type 1 diabetes.
Among other things, activities include archery, arts and crafts, horses, music, drama, fishing and canoeing.
But it is not all fun. Doctors help youngsters improve their self-care, and a dietitian oversees meals and educates the youngsters on the best food choices.
Janis Gardner of the Angleton Lions Club sums up how youngsters react to their week at camp.
“First-time campers cry when they arrive and the parents leave,” she says. “But they cry again when it is time to leave and they have to say goodbye to their new friends.”
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas makes little or no insulin, a hormone the body uses to allow sugar (glucose} to enter cells to produce energy.
Even after millions of dollars spent on research, Type 1 diabetes has no cure.
Treatment is directed toward managing the amount of sugar in the blood using insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.
In the interest of transparency, I admit that along with Worfe, her daughter and thousands of others, I am a fan of the camp.
I have a granddaughter with Type 1 diabetes who attended the camp for two years before the pandemic interrupted her plans for two years. She is eager to attend the camp again this summer.
When asked why she liked the camp so much, she said “it gives me a sense of community.”
(Contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)