WILLIAMSON — For one set of parents whose daughter passed away in 2009 from injuries she sustained in a vehicle accident, the mission to raise funding for research to find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes and to send children who suffer from the disease to “Camp Kno-Koma” has not ended, but in fact, has done the exact opposite.
Fundraising efforts have become a passion for Ginger and Tony Dentro of Lenore, the parents of Brittany Dentro, a Logan High School senior who was killed on April 20, 2009 on U.S. 119 near the Nolan Street exit in a car crash.
Brittany had suffered from Type I Diabetes since she was 7-years-old.
Friday, May 25, the Dentros are joining forces with Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Vicki Hatfield of the Comprehensive Health Solutions in Williamson, who also serves as a diabetes counselor, to hold the First Annual Walk to Cure Diabetes at the Lefty Hamilton Park in West Williamson.
“Juvenile Diabetes affects many children in our area, and unless one experiences the circumstance themselves it’s hard to even fathom what these kids go through,” said Ginger. “Having a child diagnosed with Type I Diabetes is a life changing event for the entire family.”
Ginger spoke with the Daily News about the health complications her daughter experienced during her fight with diabetes; of the many hospital stays, the sleepless nights and the countless doctors’ visits.
What sticks out in her mind the most, however; was how helpless she felt at times and of how tired Brittany had grown of the continuous daily battle of fluctuating blood sugars and her wish that it would just go away.
“I told her that diabetes was something she was going to have to live with for her entire life,” remarked Ginger. “It was a fact of life that would not change or go away, no matter how much we all wanted it to.”
For one week during the summers of Brittany’s life following her eighth birthday, she did not feel different from those around her because the other children from across the state of West Virginia that attended the diabetes “Camp Kno-Koma” clearly understood her feelings about diabetes because they too, were diagnosed with the same disease.
For seven days, all the children in attendance were on an even playing field. During this one week, no one looked at them peculiarly when they performed a finger stick test to check their blood sugar. No one cringed when a camper pulled out an insulin filled syringe to give themselves a shot. No one thought anything about it, because for all of them it was a common practice and a way of life.
“I can’t even begin to express what spending the week at camp did for Brittany’s well being,” said Ginger. “They all fit in, they were all in the same boat. No one was treated differently because of the disease.”
“Brittany became close friends with several of the campers, and these friendships lasted throughout our daughter’s life. She attended Camp Kno-Koma for a total of 11 years; eight as a camper, two as a LIT (Leadership In Training) and the last one as a counselor.”
Two of the friend’s that Ginger was speaking of were Chelsea Farley and Kenny Porter. Both individuals shared some memories of Brittany with the Daily News, and additional information on the camp itself.
“Brittany and I met when we were only 9 years old,” said Chelsea. “We both started attending Camp Kno-Koma at the same time and became inseparable after the very first day.
“She was my best friend.
“We talked on a regular basis throughout each year before camp. We lived almost 4 hours apart so it was difficult to visit much through the months leading up to the next year. Nevertheless, our friendship became stronger and stronger.
“Then - tragedy struck, and I lost someone I loved very much. The camp continues to keep Brittany’s name alive. I speak on her behalf at a campfire, and then when that’s over the other campers and counselors that knew Brittany stay and we exchange our favorite memories of her.
“Brittany had the best personality and we all miss her dearly. She will always be my best friend; no one will ever take her place.”
Chelsea stated that she keeps in contact with Brittany’s family and said that the annual diabetes walk scheduled in her friend’s memory has helped her find peace in knowing that her name will long be remembered by generations to come.
Kenny Porter, who has been associated with Camp Kno-Koma for over 17 years, told the Daily News the camp was founded in 1950 under the direction of Dr. George P. Heffner. Although it has changed locations and leadership many times during its last 60 years of existence, it is still reaching its original goal and purpose of providing a one week summer camp for children with diabetes.
Since 2010, the camp has been held at the Greenbrier Youth Camp, located in the Monongahela National Forest near Anthony.
“It broke our hearts hearing about the tragic accident that took Brittany’s life,” said Kenny. “All that knew her loved her. She was a constant help to others. She told me that her goal in life was to be a nurse and help others in need.
“I’m quite sure she would have made a fantastic nurse.”
Registration for the benefit walk that will raise money to provide the fee to send area children with diabetes to Camp Kno-Koma who cannot afford the fee of $275 is scheduled to take place between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. this Friday. Registration is slated for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., but those who are late arriving will be accommodated. The entry fee per person will be $10.
“We’re also going to have several games for the kid’s to play, along with a dunking booth and an inflatable bouncer with a slide,” said Ginger.
“Come on out and join us, help us raise some money and treat yourself to some popcorn or a snow cone.”
All money raised during the event will go to the camp sponsorship program. Donations are always welcome, and Ginger remarked that if there’s anyone in the Tug valley area interested in personally sponsoring a child for the camp, the cost if paid before May 31 is $275 and $325 if paid at a later date.
This year’s camp dates are July 15 through the July 21. Registration forms will be available at the walk.
For more information regarding this Friday’s fundraiser or the camp itself, you may give Ginger a call at 304-236-5089 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and after 6 you may call 304-688-9316.
“My daughter Heather was also diagnosed with Type I diabetes about a month and a half ago,” stated Ginger. “My youngest daughter Alisha will be tested to see if she carries the genes and traits for diabetes in approximately one week.
“I don’t think I have to give further explanation as to why I’m so passionate about this cause.
“My heart goes out to all parents who have children that suffer from any disease, and I can truthfully say I have, and am, walking in your shoes.
“I feel your pain, and I ask you to join us on Friday to help raise funding to send diabetic children to a summer camp where they can relax among others just like them,” concluded Ginger.
“Losing Brittany is something I will never get over, but being involved in this gives me a feeling of contentment knowing that I will be a part of seeing another diabetic child besides my own have the time of their life at camp.”