Pioneer Camp 2016

Lovely La Foret
Lovely La Foret

Pioneer Camp 2016

For the past three summers, I’ve counseled a week long summer camp at the La Foret Conference & Retreat Center. Pioneer Camp is one of the many summer camps hosted by the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ, and it’s something I absolutely love to do. I love counseling so much that I made it so that my return date from Brazil made it possible for me to go and counsel.

Why do I love Pioneer Camp so much? There are so many reasons, but I’ll try and narrow it down some. First, the staff. Gavin, Courtney, Cameron, Kenny, JoAnne, Teddy: I love you. Everyone but Kenny was a returning staff member, but he seamlessly fit into the team. On many nights after we get the kiddos down, we find a way to meet up. Usually this is outside one of the cabins with us whispering so we don’t wake anybody up. Obviously, it doesn’t always work perfectly, because we need to have at least one person in each cabin. But it is always a ton of fun.

La Foret. This place is my home away from home. I couldn’t have thought of a better place to come straight to after ten months in Brazil. The view of Pike’s Peak was especially clear the week of Pioneer Camp.

The kids. Boy do I love the kiddos. At times they can be frustrating, annoying, and many other things besides, but at the end of the week I am always very sad to see them go. They are cute, they are funny, they are smart, they are so many amazing things. I love so many things about camp, but I will always come back for the kids. Pioneer Camp is one of the youngest camps that the Rocky Mountain Conference hosts: any kid going into second grade through fourth grade may attend for the week.

IMG_0112Here are some stories from the week.

Tuesday night was campfire night. During the week we had a fire ban, so the campfire was really the camp around an empty fire pit singing songs and playing games. The six girls from my cabin were all sitting together, and they spent the entire evening playing with dirt. One girl, Molly, was licking her thumb, sticking it into the dirt, and licking her thumb again. I wasn’t really paying a ton of attention, since I led many of the songs, but another counselor saw and put a stop to it. By the end of the night, each girl was covered in dirt. Another girl, Kendall, had dirt all over her face.

While we were walking back to our cabin, Courtney and I told the girls that they had no other option but to take a shower that night. During our walk, Kendall, Courtney, and I had a conversation that went something like this.

Kendall: “My face is itchy.”
Me: “Well, that’s what happens when you get dirt all over your face.”
Kendall: “I don’t have dirt on my face.”
Courtney: “When you take a look in the mirror I think you’ll find that you have dirt on your face.”
Kendall: “But I can’t see myself!”
Me: “Once we get back to the cabin you’ll have to go look in the mirror and you’ll see that you have dirt all over your face.”
Kendall: “I don’t have any dirt on my face!”

This conversation persisted in a similar vein the entire walk back to the cabin. When we did get back, Courtney told Kendall to go straight into the bathroom and look at her reflection in the mirror. From the front part of the cabin, Courtney and I both heard a loud, “My face is covered in dirt!” We both laughed.


One dinner I was sitting next to a kid named Aaron. I asked him if he would please pass me a napkin. Aaron passed me the nearest already used napkin on the table. I clarified that I would really like a clean napkin. He said, “Oh!” like he’d never realized that I would have wanted that in the first place and then passed me a clean napkin.


On talent show night, Teddy, JoAnne, and Kenny’s cabin performed a song called “Ant In My Pants.” The song included kids looking like they were going to jump right out of their pants there were so many ants. It was a kind of you had to be there moment, but I can assure you that all counselors not participating laughed so hard they cried. Literally.


Molly got married to her stuffed gorilla. The girls were either bridesmaids, they walked Molly down the isle, or officiated the wedding. Courtney played her guitar and I simply attended.

When the boys heard about the wedding, they had a field day. One boy named Jason was particularly fixated on it. He kept asking the counselors about the “marry-age.” Then he persistently asked us if we were married, and throughout the week matched us up to different counselors as our future spouse. I was married to Gavin, Courtney, and Cameron at different points throughout the week.


Right around Thursday everybody started getting tired and cranky. Symptoms: Laura left Molly out of something leaving Molly lying on her bed in tears. Later that same day, Molly slammed the door into Laura’s face, announcing that her room was having “private third grader time” and effectively leaving Laura out. Courtney took care of both incidents — I didn’t have to calm down any crying children that day. However, before bed, Courtney and I decided that we should have a cabin discussion about community.

To make a long story short, Courtney and I came out of that discussion feeling like we were the best counselors ever. Not only did the girls genuinely seem to understand that they were a part of something bigger than just themselves as an individual, but they finished the discussion by going around in a circle and saying that they each wanted to be a counselor when they got old enough. High praise indeed.

Right after we finished that discussion, we did Pow-Wow-How. Pow-Wow-How was something we did every night right before bed. It was just a way to reflect on our days. Pow is something not so good about the day, Wow is something good that happened that day, and Wow is how God was seen or experienced that day. Each camper was not required to answer every question, but each of us had a turn every night to share.

Molly is a camper that always wants to go first or last. This night was no exception, because she went last. Her Pow-Wow-How went something like this:

“My Pow is, ummm, I don’t really have a Pow. My Wow is, I don’t really have a Wow either. Okay, for my first How…” And so it went.

Molly started listing things as her Hows. These things included, but where not limited to, seeing light in the pool and while she was walking down the path. To clarify here, Molly was going for content rather than substance. I completely acknowledge that God can be found in many different places, but Molly was just listing things to make it obvious that she’d seen God more than the other girls. But I’m also all for each person saying what they want to say, and paying attention while the campers are talking. Everybody has something important to say, no matter how nonessential it might seem.

Anyway, Molly is listing Hows. Right around her seventh How, Courtney and I made the mistake of glancing at each other. We completely lost it. We both started cracking up — I think we both were crying we were laughing so hard. Finally Courtney and I both managed to pull ourselves together, apologizing to the girls profusely, and told Molly to continue. Molly made it to eleven Hows before Courtney and I both lost it again. Another girl asked us if we had a case of the nighttime giggles, which we both quickly agreed that we did indeed have such a case.

I spent some quality time staring at the wall, trying to get myself under control.

To put things into perspective, Courtney and I went from an awesome counselor moment where everyone was sharing there feelings and talking about being a part of an awesome community to a not so awesome counselor moment where we laughed uncontrollably during another camper’s sharing time. Not our best moment. But if you had been faced with that situation I challenge you not to laugh.

After we pulled ourselves under control for the second time, we told Molly that she was done and asked the other girls if they had anything else they wanted to add before bedtime. Kendall said that she had some more Pows to share, in her very specific Kendall-like manner.

“Umm… Umm… My first Pow is…. Umm… I forgot! Oh, yeah! I remember. My first Pow is…” And off she went, styling her Pows in the way that Molly had styled her Hows. Courtney and I both cracked up for the third time in as many minutes. That was when we decided to call it quits, but not before Molly’s hand had shot up again, announcing that she had two more Hows to share. We told the girls that sharing time was over for the night, and to get ready for Lights Off, and barely made it to our room before losing it again. Courtney told me later that she had wanted to ask Molly if she saw God while flushing the toilet.

Upon writing this story, I still laugh.

Courtney and Claire: dubbed the "Crunch Twin Counselors"
Courtney and Claire: dubbed the “Crunch Twin Counselors”


One kid named David waddled around camp the entire week with his hand on his crotch. No, he did not have to go to the bathroom. I guess he just needed constant reassurance from his steadfast friend.


I love little kids and I love counseling. It might sound like something to avoid: being around small children for 24/7, but I don’t want to miss next year if I can avoid it. I don’t really have a very satisfactory ending, other than I ran out of funny stories to tell. Parents, I love your children, no matter how much of a handful they are. I love camp.

Who Can Test Their Blood Sugar the Fastest?

Let’s race.

Last week I went to a camp with my whole family. It’s a part of my church so many of the same people go every year. For example, these two guys, Collin and Tom go every year that I’ve been there. Tom is the dad and Collin is the kid. And they both have Type 1 Diabetes. So naturally we are best buddies.

I proposed that we have a race of “who can test their blood sugar the fastest”. I knew that Tom would win, because he has had diabetes for a lot longer then either Collin or me. But I thought it would be fun.

We raced. I won. By a lot. But I stalled so it would be closer. But it was still fun. And I highly recommend that everyone does this with their friends. It is so much fun!


Claire Montgomery
The Winner, Unbeatable, Type 1 diabetic

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Armed Summer Campers Revolt!

They’re all heavily armed…with needles.

The first time I went to a summer camp was three months after I was diagnosed with diabetes. And it wasn’t just any summer camp. It was the American Diabetes Association’s Camp Colorado.

I’ve only been to one diabetes camp, so I don’t know how this relates to other camps. Eagle Lake Camp has ten different weeks that you can go to. During Week 5, the American Diabetes Association comes in and pretty much takes over. During Week 5, all the campers are diabetic.

It’s pretty cool. When the American Diabetes Association “takes over”, they bring in a bunch of doctors and med staff and stuff to take care of all of us diabetics. One or two med staff are assigned to every cabin, and the doctors help lower your basal rates and carb ratios for meals because people tend to go low with all the exercise.

Okay. That was pretty technical. I’ll bet that you’re still wondering why you should go to diabetes camp. And the answer’s a pretty simple one. When you go to a diabetes camp, everyone surrounding you either has diabetes, or knows a ton about it. In any other camp, I have to explain to all of the other campers about what diabetes is and why I have to bleed during every meal. At Camp Colorado, there’s none of that. Everyone knows exactly what I have and how to take care of it. We all become automatic friends just because of that little similarity. During dinner there’s no explaining what a pump is.

And that isn’t all of the answer either. When you have diabetes, you’re pretty much a story collector as well. However, the stories aren’t relevant to anyone except those who have diabetes. So diabetes camp is the perfect way to share your stories! Weeks before diabetes camp starts I’m already reviewing what stories to share. You’ve got a bunch of people who actually want to hear what you’ve got to say about needles or going low at two in the morning.

But it isn’t all about the stories, and being around other people with diabetes. At diabetes camp, it’s a great time to learn how to manage your diabetes better. For example, I wasn’t sure how to wear a pump with a dress. So when I went to diabetes camp I asked around and now I wear shorts under my dresses so I have something to put my pump on. I would have never thought of that myself!

Okay, time to take a breather. I feel like I’ve just dumped a load on who ever reads this, but take my advise, and go to a diabetes camp! They’re awesome! You make new friends! You have fun! You learn more about diabetes! Go sign up now!


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Diabetic, Insulin Pumper, Diabetic Camper

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Nurse almost kills diabetic camper! Well, not exactly.

The Nurse Misplaced Her Brain

Nurse almost kills diabetic camper. Well, not exactly.

My best friend Elizabeth and I had just gotten out of the car after a three hour car ride to girl scout camp in the summer of 2009. Neither of us were technically girl scouts, but hey, who cares. It’s a whole week of just having plain old fun.

Diabetes Camp Nurse

But my dad was pretty nervous about me going to a camp alone without any parents or a staff of medical personal helping me manage my diabetes.
I was convinced that I would be fine. I can count carbs. I can so my own set. I’ll be okay. Calm down Dad.

The three of us march inside and get checked in. Then we go in search of the nurse.
We find her at a table taking other girls’ medicines and bagging them.
“Hi, I’m Minnie,” she says.

Let me stop right here and tell you that all the staff had weird nicknames. To this day I don’t know what Minnie’s real name is.

My dad introduces us and we get to talking about diabetes.
Minnie tells us that she is totally hip to diabetes. So Dad need not worry, right?
Am I on a pump or injections? A pump.
Can I count my own carbs? Dad tells Minnie that I’m really good at it, but it would be nice if she could help.
Can I do my own set changes? Yes, but a little help there also.
Lows and highs? I can feel both pretty quickly. And may I just add here that I was loaded down with a bag of smarties and a box of juice.
Would I please go to the nurse before meals to tell her my number and check in? And after meals to tell her my carbs and amount of insulin. Okay, sure.

Finally, Elizabeth, Dad, and I head over to our cabin to tell the counselor about diabetes.

And then Dad leaves. Freedom!

Elizabeth and I start the week off on a high note. Having fun, doing trail rides, building pyramids out of newspaper, that sort of thing.

The first day of camp was on a Sunday, but now it’s Tuesday after lunch.
“Did you have the sugar-free cookie?” Minnie asks after hearing my carb count.
“No,” I said.
She looks at me a little incredulously. “No? But you need to have sugar-free.”
“Nobody’s ever told me to have sugar-free,” I said. “It doesn’t matter.
“Actually it does matter sweety, in the long run.”
“Okay,” I said. But I went right back to ignoring the sugar-free menu.

On Wednesday during breakfast Minnie showed up at my table with sugar-free waffles and sugar-free syrup. Everyone else was eating pancakes. I accept them but go on eating pancakes with the regular syrup.

At lunch my blood-sugar was 170 but Minnie freaked out. Don’t get me wrong, but she was saying things like, “Oh my gosh, you’re 170. That’s a little high isn’t it. Well, what are you going to do about it? Do you think that you should still eat lunch right now?”
“I can still eat lunch right now.”
“Well, if you’re sure…”

After that little episode my numbers became “perfect”. If I was 170, she thought I was 120. If I was 70, she thought I was 120.

After lunch I had a set change. I went down to the nurse to do it. She was in the same room while I was changing my insulin and while I did my set. The first set I did would NOT stick to my skin. Both Minnie and I tried to fasten the adhesive to my butt, but it was like oil and water. So we gave it up. The second one didn’t work either. On the third try it stuck somewhat, so I decided to chance it, thinking that if it came off, I would just try again. I had one more left.

After a dance party that night my set fell off. So I went down to the nurse to do another set change. Please, please, please, let this work, I was thinking.
And it did. Well, not completely. It didn’t stick entirely. But I had no choice but to chance it.

“Did you eat the sugar-free pudding?” asked Minnie on my way out.
“Sweety, you really need to eat sugar free,” she said. “It matters when you’re older. You’ll understand.”

At about 1:00 in the morning I woke up feeling totally crappy. My set had come out. And I was about 300.
After getting out of bed I went to wake up Pip, my counselor. It took miles of will-power and an internal battle within my head to convince myself that I really needed to wake up Pip. And then I finally did.
Pip called Minnie who drove up in a pickup truck. I got in the back thinking that we were driving to the nurse’s office but Minnie just held out my bag of diabetes supplies to me. I climb in the front, grab a syringe, and shot myself.
I took the syringes and insulin with me when we went back to the cabin and ended up waking up a couple more times to give myself a shot.

The next morning Pip and Minnie thought that I shouldn’t have any food with sugar in it. I tried to explain that I could have sugar, I just needed to give myself insulin for it. They didn’t listen.
They finally found some oatmeal. It was plain oatmeal, so it didn’t have any sugar. So I told them that it actually had about fifteen carbs but Minnie just brushed my comment aside like an annoying fly. “Actually, it’s the sugar that counts, sweety.”

In an hour my mother arrived and gave me a new set. It actually worked. Surprise, surprise. So maybe I can’t do my own sets.
I was back to normal in no time.

But hey, I endured the antics of a crazy nurse. And that just shows that Diabetes just makes a person more independent, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Teenage Diabetic, Independent Pumper,  Hater of Diabetes Camp Nurses, Diabetic Camper Because Every Camp is a Diabetes Camp to a Type 1 Diabetic