By Sharon Aron Baron
Campers Jeff Marks and Kailynn Mirance Godek from Broward Health Coral Springs’ Camp Coral Kids will soon have an endless summer once they’re married in November.
Every summer for the past 25 years, children with diabetes from around the country anticipate connecting with other kids at South Florida’s only medically supervised diabetic camp, where countless children have been able to connect with others like themselves while learning how to cope with their diabetes. However, never have these special bonds created at Camp Coral resulted in marriage.
Marks, 29, and Godek, 26, who will be married in November, were diagnosed with diabetes as children. They joined Camp Coral Kids as young children and stayed to serve as counselors.
Marks left at age 23 and continues to pop in for visits. Affectionately known as the “mayor” of the camp, he started at age 5. Godek became a camper shortly after her diagnosis at age 8 in 2003. Although she left for sleep-away camp for a few years, she stayed until age 19. Both recall what an impact the environment had on helping them to feel like regular kids.
“The camp, with its medical staff right there, helped us to normalize our diabetes and learn how to control it,” recalled Marks.
Godek agreed that the camp was invaluable in helping her to feel normal. “It gave us an environment where we didn’t feel so alone,” she added. “We were able to learn from other kids with the same condition. We were able to discover tips and tricks and talk with other kids on how their bodies reacted differently to carbs.”
As counselors, they both expressed the joy of being able to help other kids. “Some have reached out to say what a positive impact the camp experience has had on their lives,” said Marks.
“I enjoyed helping kids count carbs, use their pumps and handle injections, all while making sure they were able to learn that having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life,” said Godek.
Camp Director Kathy Byrne, RN, clearly remembers both as campers. “Jeff was a true leader,” she recalls. “The other campers always looked up to him, many saying, ‘I want to be like Counselor Jeff.’” Kailynn also had the gift of leadership, Byrne recalled, “she always encouraged campers to join in on the activities.”
Although the couple didn’t start dating until a few years after leaving the camp, those earlier years as friends and their common experience with diabetes created a perfect bond. “She understands what’s involved every day with diabetes,” said Marks.
Godek explained, “We both use the same insulin pumps and meters to check our sugars. I also use a continuous glucose monitor. Dealing with the ups and downs of diabetes isn’t always easy. Having each other helps us handle the mental stresses.”
To any parent considering the value of Camp Coral Kids, Godek said, “Send them. It will be the best experience they can have as children with type 1 diabetes!”
As they start their new life together, they will always have their shared memories at Camp Coral Kids; an experience Marks says “gives kids a reason to learn about their diabetes while just being kids.”
For more information about Camp Coral Kids, visit Broward Health Coral Springs.
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