CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For more than 50 years, Camp Kno-Koma has provided an educational and fun adventure experience for West Virginia children with diabetes.
The weeklong camp in Monongahela National Forest is a safe haven for youths to learn how to manage their diabetes on their own, and connect with other children with the disease.
"This is where they can come to be a kid, a normal kid," said Mona Hudson, administrative coordinator of the Greenbrier County camp.
It's a place where a child can check their blood sugar without the worry of being different, or being teased for having diabetes, Hudson said.
The camp, held July 17-23 at the Greenbrier Youth Camp, attracts about 135 kids every year. The majority of campers are from West Virginia, but Camp Kno-Koma also brings in youths from North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Florida, Hudson said.
The camp is for kids ages 7-15, and teens ages 16 and 17 can attend as part of the Camp Kno-Koma's Leaders in Training program, which prepares them to become counselors.
"We have newly diagnosed children and children that have had diabetes for years," Hudson said.
No matter how long a child has lived with the disease, the camp is a chance for them to learn more about it, Hudson said.
While at Camp Kno-Koma, campers play sports, hike, bike, enjoy the wildlife and attend arts and craft classes, among a variety of other activities. Children also can take part in a character play, go kayaking, fish and enjoy plenty of time by a lake near the camp.
During their adventure away from home, children will meet new friends and interact with counselors who understand what they are going through, Hudson said. The majority of campers are repeat attendees, and about 95 percent of the counselors have diabetes, she said.
The camp has been a part of people's lives for more than 50 years, and counselors have even received letters and photographs from those who attended Camp Kno-Koma in the early 1950s, Hudson said.