Joyful, inspiring, lively, purposeful – these were words used to describe last week’s Winter Fun Program, an annual event at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center (held over winter recess) where teens with type 1 diabetes (T1D) come together for four days of empowering activities and experiences that this year included indoor rock climbing in Manhattan and ice skating at Flushing Meadows.
"This program is so much more than fun activities for teen patients, although there’s plenty of that,” said Dr. Natasha Leibel, head of the pediatrics program at the Berrie Center. “These activities are also important tools in showing our young patients how to manage their diabetes in the real world. They might not often find themselves rock climbing, but they do exercise and it’s important that they learn how to take care of themselves as their daily activities vary.”
Some of the winter fun experiences this year included a game of “diabetes Jenga” where the teens answered questions about themselves after removing the blocks (one at a time) from the popular balancing game; a tour of the labs (led by graduate student Danielle Baum and Berrie Center Co-Director Rudy Leibel, MD) which increased the teens’ scientific literacy as they learned about gene editing; a round of “Ask the Doctor” with pediatric endocrinologist Barney Softness who fielded insightful questions like, how does mental health influence diabetes management; and a movie matinee about a cyborg girl named “Alita: Battle Angel” which prompted an interesting discussion on being different, yet strong.
The teens took the week to produce self-portraits through a photo transfer process that started with a selfie and ended with a likeness of the artist on canvas. “I wanted them to explore identity and sense of self,” said Cara Lampron, Coordinator of the Therapeutic Arts program at the Berrie Center who thoughtfully planned every minute of the entire week along with Pediatric Coordinator Kindra Matthews.
The strength of the program is that it provides a powerful, shared experience that the teens don’t normally have, added Cara. “It’s good for the kids to connect with each other as well as the staff here because it creates a more positive feeling about the Center. More than ever, it was a group that felt connected and supported. Old friends came together and new faces were embraced from day one.”