Winter Fun Program 2020:
Diabetes Won’t Stop Us

The Berrie Center Winter Fun Program has a special way of engaging and connecting teens with diabetes. There are many reasons for the success of the program, though the program’s highly creative leaders -art therapist Cara Lampron and pediatric coordinator Kindra Matthews-- have a lot to do with it. Another key factor is the itinerary. Members of the Berrie Center community generously donate one-of-a-kind tours, activities and meals making it well worth it for our teens to get out of bed at 8am during a school break.

The focus was on the future during the 2020 Winter Fun Program, which took place during the week of February 17. There was a mix of new faces and old friends who see each other at the Berrie Center’s monthly art therapy sessions. Teens learned about the latest in diabetes research from Berrie Center Co-Director Dr. Rudy Leibel and talked with experts about what the future might look like for a person with diabetes.

The group visited Broadway Stages, a film and TV sound stage in Brooklyn owned by a Berrie Center family. There, they got a behind the scenes look at the sets of hit TV shows Blue Bloods and Billions. They spoke with crewmembers about their responsibilities and learned about different jobs in the industry. They even talked about how to resist all the tempting treats on the buffet cart. After touring the sets, the group moved on to see the work that Broadway Stages is doing to support the environment which includes a green rooftop garden.

On Wednesday, Dr. Ileana Vargas teamed up with Kyle Murray, RD, CDN from NYP's CHALK obesity prevention program for a presentation on food choices and the concept of food as medicine. “Food is a lifeline for health,” Dr. Vargas said. “Every food choice moves us either toward physical well-being or away from it; empower yourself with knowledge. Read food labels, use carb counting websites, and be mindful of what you consume.”

For a low-carb snack, the group prepared garlic and kale hummus and tzatziki sauce with homemade pita chips. 

Other outings included a trip to the Brooklyn Zoo for an active afternoon of parkour, and to Materials for the Arts, a museum dedicated to reuse and recycling.

The program culminated with a celebratory lunch at a local burger restaurant. The teens worked together to count carbohydrates and reflected on their time together. A few teens strategized about how to recruit others for the next session. “It’s so important to feel connected,” said one teen. “Many of us don’t have other people in our lives who understand what we are going through each day.”

“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 on a movie set, but they do go out to eat with their friends it’s important that they learn how to take care of themselves as their daily activities vary.”

Check the Berrie Center events calendar for upcoming programs for teens.