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This summer, 5-year-old Winnie got to experience something she never had before: a weeklong camp. She spent five days swimming, hiking and playing games. In the past, a camp without the supervision of Winnie’s parents would not have been possible, but this camp is unique.
It was created specifically for kids with type 1 diabetes. The staff consists of trained nurses who know how to care for children with this condition, including administering insulin.
Winnie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 16 months old and is one of 1.5 million people nationally who live with the condition. Her body cannot produce insulin, a hormone needed to move glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream to the body’s cells for energy use. Winnie’s diabetes requires close management that often includes a series of glucose checks to make sure her body’s blood sugar levels remain stable.
In February 2017, Winnie and her family found an easier way to manage her diabetes with the help of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The device tracks glucose levels in real time without the poke of a needle. It sends an alert if blood sugar levels spike or drop to dangerous levels. More importantly, it can connect remotely to a separate device. This allows anyone who is with Winnie, whether it’s her parents, grandparents, babysitters or camp counselors, to monitor her glucose levels.
This advanced technology and convenience can be costly. Winnie’s family paid for a CGM with help from a UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) grant. The CGM supports Winnie’s parents in allowing her to be a kid first and a diabetic second.
“The CGM helped remove a lot of the fear and mystery around monitoring Winnie’s diabetes,” says Winnie’s mother, Michelle LeGault.
The UHCCF is providing grants to thousands of families like Winnie’s to help lift the financial burden of treatment costs associated with a variety of medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, hearing loss, autism, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, ADHD and cerebral palsy. In some cases, the financial gift has been used towards physical, occupational and speech therapy, counseling services, surgeries, prescriptions, wheelchairs, orthotics, eyeglasses and hearing aids.
“We get a lot of letters from parents who are committed to the success and health of their children, and a grant is what could help them get through a gap in care,” says Matt Peterson, president of UHCCF.
Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded more than 17,000 grants, worth over $43 million, to children and families across the United States. Families can receive up to $5,000 annually per child, or a lifetime maximum of $10,000. To be eligible, a child must be 16 or younger, but the typical recipient is often 7 or 8 years old.
Families don’t need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible to receive a grant from UHCCF. In fact, more than 80 percent of recipients are not UnitedHealthcare members. Other qualifications include that a family must meet economic guidelines, reside in the United States and have a commercial health insurance plan.
To date, UHCCF has awarded over 17,000 grants, touching more than 87,000 lives, and is on track to award its 20,000th medical grant in 2020.
“We are so grateful for this program and hope that Winnie’s story inspires others to apply for a grant,” says Michelle.
Parents or legal guardians may apply for grants at uhccf.org.