By Sharon Aron Baron
Campers Jeff Marks and Kailynn Mirance Godek of Camp Coral Kids at Broward Health Coral Springs will soon have a never-ending summer once they get married in November.
Every summer for the past 25 years, children with diabetes from across the country plan to connect with other children at South Florida’s only medically supervised diabetic camp, where countless children have been able to connect with d like them while learning to cope with their diabetes. However, these special bonds created at Camp Coral never resulted in a marriage.
Marks, 29, and Godek, 26, who will tie the knot 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 the age of 23 and continues to appear for tours. Affectionately nicknamed the “mayor” of the camp, he started at 5 years old. Godek became a camper shortly after her diagnosis at age 8 in 2003. Although she went to summer camp for a few years, she stayed until she was 19. Both remember the impact the environment has had in making them feel like ordinary children.
“The camp, with its medical staff on site, helped us normalize our diabetes and learn to control it,” recalls Marks.
Godek agreed that the camp was invaluable in helping her feel normal. “It gave us an environment where we didn’t feel so alone,” she added. “We were able to learn from other children with the same condition. We got to discover tips and tricks and chat with other kids about how their bodies reacted differently to carbohydrates.
As counselors, they both expressed joy in being able to help other children. “Some have reached out to say what a positive impact the camp experience has had on their lives,” Marks said.
“I enjoyed helping the kids count carbohydrates, use their pumps and manage injections, while making sure they can learn that diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life,” Godek said.
Camp Director Kathy Byrne, RN, remembers the two clearly as campers. “Jeff was a real leader,” she recalls. He was always admired by other campers, many saying, ‘I want to be like Councilor Jeff. “Kailynn also had the gift of leadership,” Byrne recalls, “she always encouraged campers to join in on activities.”
Although the couple didn’t start dating until a few years after leaving the camp, those early years as friends and their shared experience with diabetes made a perfect bond. “She understands what is involved with diabetes every day,” Marks said.
Godek explained, “We both use the same insulin pumps and meters to check our sugars. I also use a continuous glucose monitor. Coping with the ups and downs of diabetes is not always easy. Being together helps us deal with mental stress.
To any parent considering the value of Camp Coral Kids, Godek said, “Send them out. It will be the best experience they can have as children with type 1 diabetes! “
As they begin their new life together, they will always have their memories shared at Camp Coral Kids; an experiment, according to Marks, “gives children a reason to learn more about their diabetes while just being kids.”
For more information on Camp Coral Kids, visit Broward Health Coral Springs.
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Sharon Aron Baron is a Parkland resident and Editor-in-Chief of Talk Media. She has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide information, sights and entertainment to the residents of Parkland.