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MOUNT VERNON - Nashville recording artist Crystal Bowersox had some advice to share with dozens of kids attending diabetes camp in Mount Vernon Wednesday: 'Know that your attitude is your best friend or your foe.”
Bowersox, who rose to fame as a finalist on the Fox reality show 'American Idol” in 2010 - finishing as runner-up to winner Lee DeWyze - visited Camp Tanager, 1614 W. Mount Vernon Rd., as part of her nationwide tour of diabetes camps in partnership with Lilly Diabetes and the Lilly Camp Care Package program, one of the largest diabetes camp support programs in the United States.
Bowersox, who has been living with Type 1 diabetes for more than 25 years, shared her story, as well as some songs, with the campers who also have the disease.
'You can spend your time being angry and resentful about it (Type 1 diabetes) or you can accept it and start living your dreams,” Bowersox said. 'If you embrace it and learn to care for it and love it, then it won't stand in your way.”
Camp Tanager's youth diabetes camp provides children with diabetes a safe and healthy environment to partake in a variety of educational and recreational activities under the direct supervision of a trained medical staff.
'It's a phenomenal program. We have kids that come back year after year,” said Donald Pirrie, camp director for the past 23 years. 'We've had kids that come back from when they're 6 until they're 17. This is a huge part of their lives.”
For the camp's staff, Bowersox's message was a great one to emphasize.
'To hear Crystal reinforce a lot of the same messaging that we give kids is great. When the kids come to camp they can do anything, they can be anything,” Pirrie said. 'So to have Crystal coming in and saying the exact same thing, it just reinforces that belief that it doesn't matter if you have diabetes or whatever it may be, if you set your mind to it and you believe that you can do it, you can do it.”
Bowersox attended a similar camp when she was younger and said it gave her hope and confidence.
'When kids come to camp they discover that they are, in fact, not alone and that there are plenty of people living with Type 1 diabetes,” she said. 'Here, they can just be a kid, whereas maybe in their daily lives they are the only kid with Type 1 diabetes in their school or in their family.
'There is a lingo and commonality we all share.”
Bowersox was a competitor on the ninth season of 'American Idol,” when she had an awakening about living with Type 1 diabetes and the importance of self care after being hospitalized.
'While I was on the show, I let my priorities get a little mixed up and the show and its crazy schedules became overwhelming for me and I went into what's called diabetic ketoacidosis from having high blood sugars for a prolonged amount of time,” Bowersox said. 'I was told that I was no longer allowed to be part of the competition and, of course, I didn't like that and would not accept that as an answer.
'Thankfully, the producers made arrangements that allowed me to stay in the competition.”
Bowersox recalled trying to hide her diagnosis from others while on the show.
'Diabetes was a source of shame. I didn't want to tell anyone about it at the time because I didn't want any special kind of treatment, I didn't want anyone to know,” she said. 'But it was the best mistake I ever made because once people knew I had Type 1, I had a whole room of people who were there to support me.
Today, she has become a spokeswoman for those living with Type 1 diabetes.
'I'm very, very proud of it now.”
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