Gearing up for a new year

The end of summer is a poignant time for all of us at Camp Kudzu; we're currently reflecting on the incredible effort and year-round planning that gives shape to lasting memories, friendships made and life-skills learned.

September also marks the end of Camp Kudzu’s fiscal year. As we wrap-up FY18, we welcome the start of our “Kudzu New Year,” beginning October 1st. I’m pleased to share that the past 12 months with this wonderful organization has been incredibly promising. We have set – and achieved – dramatic growth goals in all our focus areas for the year, including: Teen Transition, Education, Leadership Development (Junior Counselors), and our Outreach efforts.

As we celebrate a job well done, we will prepare for FY19 to be focused on strategy, laying the ground work for our key initiatives, and identifying the critical resources necessary to achieve our objectives. We are committed to increase our emphasis on developing diabetes education and programming as well as expanding our outreach operations to serve more vulnerable families across Georgia.

This is also an exciting time of year as we prepare for our 11th Annual Camp Kudzu Benefit Luncheon. We are thrilled to have the privilege of honoring Kathy Womack and her many contributions to Camp Kudzu at this year’s event. We look forward to an exciting program led by the capable hands of our Luncheon Co-Chairs Melissa Zgonc and Jan Studdard. The Benefit Luncheon is currently our largest signature event, and it provides an opportunity for us to better engage and connect our participants with our core mission. The Luncheon also highlights the real impact and positive outcomes of the work that Kudzu accomplishes all year long.

We are also excited to share with you this year’s impressive group of Kudzu Ambassadors -- all of them “lighting the way” for the next generation of campers.

As always, Kudzu is best when we have your help. My door is always open to receive your input and contributions of any kind. Send me an email and set up a meeting -- I'd love to hear from you.

-Rob Shaw
Executive Director
Meet our new class of Kudzu Ambassadors
The Kudzu Ambassador program aims to represent our alumni who have grown up attending our programs and remain involved with Camp Kudzu and the type 1 community while excelling in their personal lives and professional goals. These eight individuals were chosen from hundreds of our alumni because of their stellar representation of Camp Kudzu’s effectiveness. They will be honored at this year's Annual Benefit Luncheon, held on November 13, 2018.

It is with pride that we present this year's new Kudzu Ambassadors:

img Brian Starks:  Brian has volunteered at Camp Kudzu since 2007 and has served as a CIT, counselor, and head staff. Brian is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia (UGA) and a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at UGA’s Center for International Trade and Security. Brian’s research investigates the proliferation pathways for conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction technology. His work and research have previously led to time spent in the aerospace industry and multiple national nuclear laboratories. In his spare time, Brian enjoys camping and reading.
img Erin Dever:  A Georgia native, Erin began attending Camp Kudzu in 2004. Since 2006, she has served as a CIT, MCIT, clinician, and medical committee member. She graduated from NGCSU in 2011 and spent 2011-2017 as an RN at Northside Hospital Cherokee. In 2013, she met her husband, Nate, while both were volunteering at Fall Family Camp. She recently graduated from the University of North Georgia as a nurse practitioner and plans to find a job working in endocrinology, where she hopes to have a positive impact on others living with diabetes.
img Caroline Graff:  Caroline has been attending Camp Kudzu since she was in elementary school. She spent ten years as a camper, transitioning through the Counselor in Training program, and has now been volunteering for seven years as a counselor and head staff member. She cannot imagine spending her summers any other way. In 2015, Caroline graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education. She has been teaching middle school chorus in Fulton County ever since. Caroline has lived in Atlanta all of her life and loves to travel, explore the city, and volunteer in her spare time.
img Julie Cortes:  Julie has been attending Camp Kudzu since Fall of 2003. She has volunteered as a CIT, counselor, and producer for Camp Kudzu: The Musical for the past several years. Julie has been a professional child caregiver for the last six years and has recently launched her own event planning company. In her free time, she enjoys trips to Disney World, party planning, and spending time with family and friends.
img Laura Gillespie:  Laura has been attending Camp Kudzu since 2002 and has served as a CIT, counselor, and head staff volunteer. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She is currently enrolled in Augusta University’s Physician Assistant Program. In her free time, Laura enjoys running, being outdoors, and spending time with her friends and family.
img Mindy Bartleson:  Born and raised in Georgia, Mindy currently lives in Boston with her two kitties, Lilo and Stitch. She's grown up with Camp Kudzu and has attended camp every summer since 2001 as a camper, CIT, volunteer counselor, and volunteer head staff. She graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor in Social Work degree and a minor in Sociology, and she served as president of Dawgs for Diabetes. She currently works in marketing and program management and maintains a popular blog about life with chronic illness and mental health. When she's not working, writing, cuddling with her kitties, or talking about camp, you can find her traveling, reading, crafting, running, and staying a kid at heart.
img Nicole Bernath:  Nicole joined the Camp Kudzu family in 2006 as a CIT and has continued to volunteer as a counselor and head staff. Her only regret is being too stubborn to give camp a try as a camper! Thanks to camp, she quickly transitioned from someone who felt isolated by diabetes to a confident advocate for herself and others. She graduated from the University of Georgia and has pursued a career in marketing while also working to spread type 1 diabetes awareness through her children’s accessories business, donating a portion of her proceeds to Camp Kudzu. She married her husband, Daniel, in 2014, and they welcomed their daughter, Aurora, in 2016. She thanks Camp Kudzu for lifelong friends and always looks forward to volunteering at camp programs throughout the year.
img Zach Whigham:  Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, Zach has been involved with Camp Kudzu since the beginning and has risen through the ranks as a CIT, counselor, and a clinician. He graduated from the University of North Georgia in 2018 and has recently started a job at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta as a registered nurse. He credits Camp Kudzu with his desire to pursue the field of nursing as well as brightening his life in many other areas. In his free time, he enjoys music, running, and travel.
Donate to Camp Kudzu Today!
Your donation makes programs like Kudzu Ambassadors and Fall Family Camp possible. Thanks for your support!
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Kudzu covers newly-diagnosed families
We are excited to announce Kudzu Covers, our new, special way of welcoming all newly-diagnosed families into the Camp Kudzu community. Children and teens in Georgia will be given their gift bundle either while in the hospital or during their first education session at their local clinic. Each bundle includes a fleece blanket, information about camp programs, a letter from a camper or volunteer, and a fun S'mores recipe. If you have any questions about this program or any ideas on how to contribute, please email Whitney LeHew.

109 campers demonstrated they are indeed Kudzu's "Sharpest Lancets"
By Anna Albritton
Do Kudzu campers know their carb ratios? Sensitivity? Types and names of insulins they take? At the end of Kudzu’s 2018 season, 109 campers demonstrated well-rounded knowledge of diabetes management by completing the “Passport to Sharpest Lancet.” A comprehensive collection of diabetes management skills and important pieces of knowledge have been pieced together to compile the passport. A variety of skills were assessed, including both conceptual and concrete skills, such as verbally explaining T1D, drawing up insulin via syringe (think failed pump site here), adjusting insulin for exercise, and individual-specific diabetes knowledge, including ratios, sensitivities, and more.

While the ever-popular Golden Syringe Award still exists to celebrate both big and small victories, the Sharpest Lancet strings these milestone victories together and requires that campers work towards the achievement each summer. At the end of each session, campers who achieve this highest honor award are celebrated in a special pinning ceremony, at which they receive a Kudzu leaf pin to sport on their nametag lanyards in future summers. Staff members with diabetes got in on the fun, as well, and showed that they also know their stuff—be sure to look for staff with leaf pins in the summers to come!  
Thanks to GFWC for having us
A big “thank you” to Becky Bolden and Lindsey Pierce with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Georgia for inviting us to participate in their annual Institute event in Athens on August 18. As the GFWC Georgia Director of Junior Clubs, Becky, along with Lindsey, began a special project focusing on women’s health and diabetes. Becky’s passion for this project comes in part from her sister-in-law, who has type 1 diabetes. Camp Kudzu was asked to participate in the event because of the positive, growing impact our camp programs have in the state of Georgia. We could not have been prouder to participate.

District 1 Georgia Lions supporting Kudzu
img Camp Kudzu thanks the District 1 Georgia Lions for their effort in coordinating and hosting the recent "Bowl for Diabetes," which was held at the Stars and Stripes Bowling Lanes in Loganville.

Camp Kudzu appreciates the support of the Lion's 1st District-wide Community Impact Project.
It's Not Too Late: ...Presale tickets
Special Priority Offer! Get tickets before they go on sale September 7th!

For each ticket purchased using the special code CHRISTMAS, Broadway in Atlanta will make a $5.00 donation to Camp Kudzu.

Fall Family Camp enrollment is now OPEN!
October 26-28, 2018 at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, GA
Join us for a weekend of family fun, networking, and learning. The weekend is filled with a mix of family fun camp activities and parent/adult education sessions. During the parent/adult education sessions, your child or children will be placed in groups by age to participate in camp activities with our trained staff, many of whom have type 1 diabetes themselves.

If you have any questions, contact Mandy Conroy, Camp Community Coordinator at or
Click Here to Register!
"We were very impressed and want to come back. It was very well done and we appreciate that something like this even exists."
-New Camp Kudzu Family
2018 Kudzu Partners