For Mary Kottke, leaving her son Joe alone at camp last summer was hard. Mary and her husband Kevin were the last parents to leave.
"It was hard to leave him alone for that long," she said.
As happens in many cases, the first time the son is away from home was harder on the parents. Joe loved camp.
"It was fun," he said. "There were a lot of cool activities. We got to go swimming."
The only way to discern the St. Mary's fourth grader from any other is the MedicAlert bracelet on his arm. He proudly wears t-shirts with the emblems of the basketball and baseball teams he plays on. Making the week long trip hard on his parents was that Joe had been diagnosed with diabetes two years ago. His parents were understandably concerned that he would get the care he needs at the camp.
"That was our life," Mary Kottke said. "We always check his blood sugar and insulin. For a week, we had to let someone else do it."
Camp Hertko Hollow, located along the Des Moines River north of Boone, is a special residential camp for people who have diabetes. It is non-profit camp certified by the American Camping Association to provide a safe environment for campers with special needs. Joe's blood sugar was checked four times a day, once while he was sleeping.
A flier for the camp answers the question of what campers do at camp as: "In a nutshell - we have fun."
Joe grins and testifies to the truth of that motto. He learned to rappel and rode horses, as well as playing in the Des Moines River with his friends.
"It is really big," he said. "There are lots of kids there."
In fact he liked it so much he is going back this year. To earn his way, Joe, along with his family and friends, is holding a garage sale to defray the $650 cost of the camp. The family held a similar garage sale last year which raised about $400.
This year the sale will be held June 17 at the family residence at 1116 Oneida St. Bikes, clothes, exercise equipment, toys, baked goods, and even an electric car will all be sold to help fund the trip to camp. Everyone is welcome.