Being a nurse and teacher for 20 years I was on the frontline when the childhood obesity epidemic emerged. I worked with students in a major medical center. The children’s hospital on campus began to see 5 year olds with cirrhosis of the liver, 8 year olds having strokes, and 20 year olds having heart attacks. We even had to change the name of Juvenile diabetes to type 1 diabetes because kids had begun to develop adult onset diabetes now called type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is absolutely preventable and no child should have it! This is the diabetes of my grandparent’s generation. From experience we know that in 10-15 years after diagnosis we will see the complications from type 2 diabetes which are heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputations to name a few. Type 2 diabetes is an unforgiving disease which will not discriminate for age.
My entire life has been dedicated to health and education which I consider to be basic human rights. I truly believe that when people know better then they can do better. I also believe that when you lose your health—nothing else will ever matter quite the same again.
Some will say I am the hardest working woman that you will ever meet. I say that I have never worked a day in my life! What I do is who I am. I am a nurse and teacher. It is all consuming. One cannot leave work behind in either profession…..you must always be “on” when needed.
My mid-life crisis occurred when I was 40 years old. I saw a catastrophic event emerging and I began looking for solutions. I went to work at what looked to be the best weight loss camp for kids in the nation. On the internet it appeared to be perfect. Oh my—nothing could have been further from the truth. It was at that camp my rose-colored glasses were shattered. It was all about BIG business weight loss hype, repeat customers and money. I did not consider it safe for kids or employees. Profit was their driving force. I came home from that camp and said to my husband “Honey, give me all your money because someone who cares about kids needs to do this. I know what works and I know what is missing. And we have enough love to share to help kids heal and become successful.” The man said yes and we have been saving lives ever since.
Our camp has been built on love. It has taken great personal sacrifice in an effort to “save this generation of kids”. We sold personal possessions like grandmother’s crystal and we both worked other jobs to pay for the things to start camp. We did not receive salaries most of these years and we work every day of the year, we sold our home so that we could pay staff in the recession and moved to a dilapidated cabin at camp. We did not have hot and cold water in our bathroom for 2 years because we had to fix the other cabins for campers first.
I slept in my office at the hospital from Monday through Friday so that the money I saved on gas could be used to buy paint, etc for camp improvements. I knew where to get a gurney from the emergency room in the evening and what patient floor had extra sheets and pillows that I could use. I knew which public restroom had a lock so that I could brush my teeth and get a “bath by sink” before day shift came to work. I took brown bag meals and work from camp to keep my busy through the week.
These were the easy sacrifices. The hard ones have been the realization that we cannot get back the time that we have given up with our own families. Special moments like our 25th and 30th wedding anniversaries were spent celebrating with our 80 camp kids instead of our own family. Both sets of our parents are elderly and we know that we are missing out on time with them. This is perhaps the hardest sacrifice. Yet we know that our life experience has come together for this one purpose. We truly believe that children are our future and we actually are doing something about it.
The motto was “whatever it takes” and it took a lot for a new nonprofit without funders to survive during this recession. It has been a long 10 years, but we along with our exceptional staff have saved more lives here than I ever did in a traditional nursing role
For my husband and me, this is our encore career. We created a “LivingWellVillage” to address this crisis in our society with a program that works. This is not the “retirement” we worked to achieve but living a life with purpose is a life that matters. We are in search of an army of like-minded people to help us re-direct the lives of a nation. Our mission is essential to the future of our nation’s being!