Sam Fuld’s Diabetes Sports Camp at USF bigger and better than ever

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Major league baseball outfielder Sam Fund is surrounded by young campers at the diabetes sports camp he hosts each year at USF.

This year’s Sam Fuld USF Diabetes Sports Camp attracted a record number of kids from Florida and across the country and added more sports to the mix of those practiced by the youngsters.

Held at the USF Athletic District this past weekend, Feb. 1 and 2, the 3rd annual camp was hosted by Sam Fuld, a major league baseball outfielder diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10.  He conducts the camp in partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays, the USF Diabetes Center, and Florida Diabetes Camp.

Youngsters, ages 8 to 17 with type 1 diabetes, along with a sibling or friend, participated in many sports including baseball, softball, tennis,  football, soccer, golf, and cheerleading.  This year, volleyball and dance were added, bringing more excitement to the camp. 

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Fuld pitches to a camper during one of the baseball sessions.

Unlike other diabetes camps, every coach at this camp has type 1 diabetes and has been a successful professional or collegiate athlete in his or her sport.  The coaches share a special connection with the campers in dealing with the daily challenges of type 1 diabetes.  The positive messages the campers receive about living with the chronic disease are as important as the chance to catch fly balls, kick field goals or serve tennis balls.

With growing national appeal, the camp attracted 117 campers and their families from 12 states in addition to Florida including Arizona, Georgia, Illinois,  Maryland,  Nebraska, New Hampshire , New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

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Dr. Henry Rodriguez, medical director of the USF Diabetes Center, with Fuld.

“Our goal from the outset has been to grow each year and we feel confident that the 2014 camp was even better than the previous two,” Fuld said.

“Adding volleyball and dance further broadened the array of options for the campers, and it gave us the chance to bring in even more coaches who serve as such great role models. Each year, the camp provides the campers with opportunities to share stories and learn from the experiences of other kids and adults with similar histories.”

Henry Rodriguez, MD, medical director of the USF Diabetes Center, and other USF Diabetes Center medical staff and partners provided medical supervision for the campers along with counselors from Florida Diabetes Camp.  Tampa Bay Rays players  Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Gomes visited the camp on Sunday to sign autographs and support Fuld.   Rodriguez even pitched during the Sunday morning scrimmages.

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Fuld checks his blood sugar reading before heading out on the baseball diamond to coach.

Fuld  also addressed hosting future camps.

“I can tell you that it does not matter what team I play for or where I play, even if it is in Japan,” he said.  ”Because of our great partnership with the USF Diabetes Center, Florida Diabetes Camps, and USF Athletics, the camp will continue here at USF for years to come as our impact on others with type 1 diabetes has been amazing.”

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Kids and their families wait to check in for camp.

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Dr. Rodriguez helps out with registering the young campers.

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A USF golfer gives a camper some guidance on his putting technique.

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Juan Bustabad, right, minor league baseball manager and short stop, and former major league pitcher Bill Gullickson, were among the coaches.

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Coaches from the diabetes sports camp, all of whom live with type 1 diabetes, pose for a group photo with Sam Fuld, center.