Roisin Keegan is a member of the Diabetes Ireland Sweetpea Kidz Club committee for just over five years and volunteers on the annual Family Trip to Trabolgan. She is a person with type 1 diabetes herself and is also a member of the Dublin Type 1 Diabetes Support Group, in fact, she organises a lot of their events and is one of the admins of that group and of the Diabetes in Ireland group. I asked her to tell us about her experience volunteering with the Trip to Trabolgan which took place last April. This is what she wrote;
Everyone living with type 1 (T1) diabetes understands the importance of social support and the feeling of fitting in, especially for a young child living with the condition. The Sweetpea Kidz Club (SKC) is a voluntary run organisation for children up to 12 years living with T1 diabetes and their families. The organisation aims to bring together and support others living with the condition in a fun filled, family orientated environment through summer and Christmas parties. One event in particular that we always look forward to in the SKC is the family weekend trip to Trabolgan in April. Not only can a child living with T1 have opportunity to meet other children in the same position but it also allows parents and caregivers to talk endlessly about all things T1 with other parents and learn valuable information from workshops run by health care professionals such as paediatric endocrinologists, diabetes nurse specialists, dietitians and clinical psychologists.
When families first arrive they gather together in the sports hall situated in Trabolgan village and meet the team of volunteers which will support and look after the children during the activities. The majority of the volunteers who help organise the event also live with T1 which helps put parents at ease when going their separate ways to attend workshops. Some of the volunteers were even “Sweetpeas” themselves at one time and are delighted to come back and help out! The children are take part in art activities, games, catch up with old friends and of course make new ones. Parents are brought to a quieter location and given an induction to the weekend ahead. They are asked what they would like to discuss with the health care professionals or what they would like to discuss amongst themselves in an open format. This time also allows for parents who are new to the event to link up with other families who are happy to give some guidance throughout the weekend.
The next morning as you can guess is Go, Go, Go! Each family can decide for themselves if they want to go for a swim and everyone meets back at the sports hall at 10am where children are given snacks and are divided into groups. The children are entertained with a wide range of activities such as football, jungle gym, art activities and face painting while their parents meet in a less hectic setting!
As you can imagine, there’s a lot of running around and with that comes a lot of blood glucose testing and breaking for snacks and Lucozade! The children are given support and guidance by the volunteer team to test with their own meters and take snacks.
During this time the parents gather in the Cove for three different talk workshops. The first is where the health care professionals give presentations and take time for questions and answers. Other guest speakers include two individuals who share their own personal experience growing up with T1 diabetes. They speak openly and honestly about what helped and how T1 impacted their lives during different life events such as going away or staying with friends, participating in sports or changing from injections to pumps etc.
Another of the parents workshops is where they share their own experiences with a wide range of topics such as schools, clinic appointments, different treatments or any issues they have which is valuable to every parent sitting in the group. Parents find this time useful to give and get advice from others and swap stories which they do not often get when going to hospital appointments or other family events.
I have been part of the Sweetpea Kidz Club committee for just over five years and overall I believe Trabolgan is an encouraging and worthwhile family event. Each family takes away something positive and constructive, whether it’s the chance to bond with others or learn something new. The opportunity for the whole family to spend time together in a fun and enjoyable environment in which T1 diabetes is not only a gravitational pulling force but also the reason for the growth of confidence, education, support and opportunity.
Thank you so much Roisin, for taking the time to write such a lovely piece.
Letters of invitation go out to all family members of Diabetes Ireland to announce this event. However this year, due to funding limitations Diabetes Ireland could only invite 20 families on the trip in 2016. If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in offering more families the opportunity to attend this event please contact Gary Brady, Fundraising Manager Diabetes Ireland.
Thriveabetes 2016 takes place on Saturday 1st October in Naas, Co. Kildare. Registration is open now and you can read more about our speakers here.