Mary Beth Alberti exudes enthusiasm when she explains what Diabetes Youth Services is doing for children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. As the executive director of the program, she doesn’t miss an opportunity to tell the community what she’s doing and why it’s great.
“My goal is to teach children that they, and not their diabetes, are in control of their life,” she said. “We try to help kids manage diabetes while doing everyday fun things.”
DYS is a nonprofit organization that provides camps and curriculums to educate the 3,000 children living with the disease in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Their two camp programs, Little Shots and Big Shots, share a goal of helping children understand diabetes through educational fun and forming a sense of community.
“The first day of camp, the director will ask how many people have diabetes and everybody raises their hand,” she said. “But at school, they’re most likely one of few that has it. They get to interact with their peers and not feel alone.”
At the Little Shots camp, children ages six to nine learn how to test their own blood sugar and give themselves insulin. The Big Shots camp program is geared toward teenagers with an on-site medical staff and camp counselors that are also Type 1, so they can relate to the campers. Carb counting is the most important topic taught at both camps and carries into the lives of children dealing with diabetes, Mary Beth said.
DYS goes far beyond summer camp programs with year-round services including a newsletter, The Sugar Buzz, which reaches 1,000 people, and a “counselors in training leadership program.” Also they provide support for parents with high school students getting ready to go to college and take care of diabetes on their own for the first time.
Mary Beth hopes that the skills and info DYS provides sticks with students for life. After a little over a year of being with the nonprofit organization, she has realized that she is exactly where she wants to be.
“This is my dream job,” she said. “Knowing that whether I’m organizing a fundraising event or seeking a grant, all of the money that we bring in is benefiting the kids is very inspiring.”
Moving to a new location soon, DYS will be a “one-stop shop” with a pharmacy counter to conveniently provide medications and supplies to patients to help them with their diagnosis.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure,” she said. “But that’s why we’re here, to help them cope the best they can.”
Diabetes Youth Services, 2100 W. Central Ave. #110, Toledo. Call Mary Beth Alberti at 419-291-1236
for information on how to get involved. Visit www.dys4kids.org for more information.