For a while now, 11-year-old Channing Torosian has had a goal. You could say that goal has even become an obsession of sorts.
Channing has Type 1 diabetes, and she has dreamt of attending an Idaho-based camp – Camp Hodia - that provides kids like her an opportunity to share common experiences and meet others with diabetes.
A twist of fate arose recently for her dad, Sean Henry, who has been very aware of her wish. A mechanic who also drives the fuel truck for Idaho Helicopters, Henry saw a car with a “HODIA” license plate on his company’s parking lot he knew he wanted to meet the owner.
The owner turned out to be Dr. Alan Bean, the medical director of Air St. Luke’s, which contracts helicopters and pilots from Idaho Helicopters. Bean also serves on the board of directors and as a camp director for Hodia.
Henry walked in from the parking lot and asked whose car had the HODIA license plate.
“That’s my car,” Dr. Bean said. “Do you need me to move it?”“No, but my daughter wants to go to a Hodia camp so bad,” Henry said. “That’s all she talks about.”
The two continued to have a short conversation, and Henry told Dr. Bean that Channing had been considering doing some fundraising.
“She wanted to help out with paying her way to camp,” Henry said.
Andie Woodward, a flight paramedic for Air St. Luke’s, overheard the conversation and asked Henry about Channing’s interests. Henry beamed as he told Woodward that his daughter was a really good artist.
“So, I said, ‘You have her draw a really cool picture, and then I’ll see if I can auction it off,’” Woodward said.
Channing jumped at the idea.
“I really like to draw and color and stuff, so I said, ‘Yeah, I could do that,’” Channing said.
Woodward has organized a GoFundMe fundraiser, and anyone who donates will be entered into a raffle to win Channing’s drawing. Appropriately enough, the drawing features a helicopter.
It’s also appropriate that a St. Luke’s staff member is organizing the fundraiser, since Channing spent five days at St. Luke’s two years ago as doctors and nurses tried to keep her from slipping into a diabetic coma. It was a pretty jarring way for Channing’s mother, Jessica Torosian, to learn her daughter had Type 1 diabetes.
“The St. Luke’s people were amazing,” Jessica said. “It was a scary situation because I didn’t know much about Type 1 diabetes, but they calmed me down and told me everything I needed to know. There was an educator there for three days who was on hand to answer questions and go over all the life changes we’d have to make.”
Not surprisingly, those changes haven’t all been easy for Channing.
“I’m starting to get used to it, but it’s still kind of a pain,” she said. “Like at school, when I’m putting my numbers in my pump people will stare, like ‘What is she doing?’”
That’s a major part of the appeal of Hodia for Channing: She’ll be around other kids who understand what it’s like to live with diabetes.
Dr. Bean has seen time and again how important that can be.
“It’s a huge boost when you get together with a group of kids with the same issues,” Dr. Bean said. “It helps them think, ‘OK, I can do this,’ and it really does give them a lot of confidence to attack what they’re dealing with and then they make friends so when they need to they can find some support.”
The camp that Channing hopes to attend runs from July 24-30, and it’s located near Alturas Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains. The camp will feature hiking, horseback riding, art and crafts and campfire songs and storytelling, among other activities.
“It’s a perfect environment for this camp,” Dr. Bean said. “It’s a beautiful playground in Idaho.”
Dr. Bean’s involvement with Hodia dates to 1978, when he was a young camper himself. Over the years, he has continued to be part of an organization that he can attest has a lasting impact on kids’ lives.
“Every child that goes to these camps – and we have the data to support this – has the opportunity to forge some confidence, and the camp gives them some tools as well,” Dr. Bean said. “It will help her to live her life better, and it will help her live a healthier and longer life.
“She won’t know that yet, but in the future she’ll reflect back and realize those camp times were a foundational time for her. So, I do want people to know that, yes, it’s great that she’ll be having fun, but it will also make a difference throughout her entire life.”
Channing’s family has already discussed what they’ll do with any extra proceeds if they exceed their $1,500 goal.
“Any other money we raise will go to other children that need help getting to a camp,” Henry said. “If it turns out we could help some other kids as well that would be awesome.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.