Fund makes for happy campers

PHOTO PROVIDEDSaranac Central second-grader James Lynch poses with Matt McCasland, a graduate of the school, at Camp Joslin, a residential summer camp in Charlton, Mass., for boys with Type 1 diabetes. Both Lynch and McCasland, a counselor at the camp, live with the condition, which prevents their pancreases from producing insulin. Lynch was able to spend a week at Camp Joslin last month thanks, in part, to the Saranac School District Campership Fund.

SARANAC — Few North Country youths can relate to what 8-year-old James Lynch must concern himself with on a daily basis. 

"Really, there aren't many children around here that have Type 1 diabetes," said the Saranac Elementary School second-grader's mother, Donna. "He's kind of on his own as far as that goes." 

The condition, which James was diagnosed with at age 5, has resulted in his pancreas ceasing to make insulin. He must test his sugar eight to 10 times a day, closely monitor his diet and make frequent adjustments to his insulin pump to keep his sugar from reaching dangerous levels. 

"It's quite a balancing act," Donna said.


Still, she didn't know how much her son could benefit from the company of other children with the disease until he attended Camp Joslin, a residential summer camp in Charlton, Mass., for boys with Type 1 diabetes. 

"When I dropped him off, I couldn't get over just how excited he was to see other kids like himself," Donna said of James, who spent a week at the facility in June. 

"Sometimes, these kids try to fit in so much that the parents might not even realize what they're feeling inside," added Saranac Elementary School Nurse Jessica Waldron, who helps monitor James's levels throughout the school day.

She urged Donna to consider the camp for her son and helped to secure $1,000 in funding from the United Way to cover some of the cost of sending James to the facility, which has a team of medical experts on hand 24 hours a day. 

This provided him a rare opportunity to spend the night with peers away from home.

After all, Donna noted, someone like James, who has to check his sugar in the middle of the night, doesn't attend many sleepovers.

"We're nervous as parents every night that he could go low and not wake up," she said.


James told the Press-Republican he would like to return to Camp Joslin, where he enjoyed fishing, swimming and playing games. 

"We did, like, activities outside," he said. 

Waldron hopes to enable other students with disabilities to attend specialized summer camps for kids facing challenges similar to their own and has started the Saranac School District Campership Fund to raise money for the trips. 

"I'd like to send kids every year even if it's the same kids," she said. 

The nurse has reached out to various organizations for donations and has asked colleagues at Saranac Central to recommend students who could benefit from the experience.


In addition, Waldron has teamed up with Saranac Varsity Volleyball Coach Mary LaDuke to host a volleyball tournament to raise money for the Campership Fund. 

The day-long event will kick off at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Saranac High School and feature students from all over the area competing in varsity-level matches. 

T-shirts, concessions and raffle tickets will be available for purchase. 

"It's free to come and watch," Waldron said. 

Even those who aren't avid volleyball fans, she added, can stop by for a hot dog or hamburger, enter a raffle and show support for the cause. 

The Lynches are grateful for Waldron's hard work and the valuable opportunity she brought James.  

"She's done a great job," Donna said. 

After spending time in a place where he didn't have to feel different from everyone else, James has a more positive outlook on his diabetes.

"It makes me unique," he told his mother. "The counselor said that at camp, and I believe him." 

Email Ashleigh Livingston:

Twitter: @AshJLivingston

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Ashleigh Livingston reports education and health news. She is a graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh, where she also serves as an adjunct lecturer.

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