VANCOUVER, BC – The story of Anthony Ast and his battle with diabetes has been fairly well documented by now (Megan Stewart recently had a feature in the Vancouver Courier about it, and BCIT’s Dustin Forbes put together a video documentary on Anthony earlier this year).
But even though his story is now common knowledge, Anthony isn’t satisfied with simply playing hockey and taking praise for his ability to overcome adversity. He is always looking for ways to use his experiences to help others.
The latest example of that is an event coming up on Saturday, September 15th at the Richmond Skating Oval. It is the 50th anniversary celebration of Camp Kakhamela, a camp for young kids that are learning to cope with diabetes. And a camp of which Anthony Ast is a proud alumni.
Camp Kakhamela was started 50 years ago by Dr. John Hunt and Kakhamela means “the hunt” and is named after him. It is designed for children aged 6 to 17 who are living with diabetes, and is an opportunity for them to meet people who are in the same situation they are and to make them feel at home. It started with 43 campers in its first year and has grown to 160 kids this past year. Saturday’s event will include a barbecue lunch, a kids gym, memory wall, storytelling, camp songs, prizes and give-aways. Of course Anthony Ast will be on hand, but he’ll also have a side-kick with him, as Giants mascot “Jack the Giant” will be on location as well from 11:30 to 3pm.
Organizer Donna Walleghem explained that it’s a very special occasion for them and talked about why the camp is so important. “This camp is all about gaining independence to self-manage one’s diabetes in a safe and fun environment. By increasing that knowledge it gives young people that confidence. For some young campers, it may be the first time they’ve met someone their own age with diabetes. It’s an opportunity for them to have peers and friends who share their experience and understand what that’s like, living with diabetes. None of that has changed in 50 years of camp.”
So on Saturday, Anthony will go back to the camp that meant so much to him as a child and try to spread the message that diabetes doesn’t have to be a barricade in life. He remembers that “as a child, having just been diagnosed with diabetes was a life altering experience that changed my life forever. Being able to go away to camp, it being my first time away from home, to be around other kids with diabetes was a blessing and really got me through the first little bit.”
Clearly, the motivation behind the camp rubbed off on Anthony, as he was able to take full advantage. “Everyone I was with was going through the same things I was, with the same questions and concerns. Being at camp took my mind off of everything that was going on around me and with my altering experience of just being diagnosed.”
He continued to talk about the important lessons he learned through Kakhamela. “That was where I gained the confidence to do all of my finger pokes, and my first insulin injection on my own. The camp helped me adjust to life with diabetes”
Saturday’s event starts at 11:30 with and runs until 4 o’clock. Anthony will arrive at about 11am to greet the visitors and make himself available to the public. Later in the day, he will make a presentation on his memories of camp and talk about his ability to thrive as a WHL player while living with his condition.
“Anthony is someone that gives young people hope” said Donna Wallegham. “I think he demonstrates that with hard work and a focus on diabetes management, many wonderful things can be achieved. He is someone that has attended camp and understands what the benefits are to be around other children with diabetes.”
The Camp is funded partially by the CDA (Canadian Diabetes Association) and other sources; money is raised through special events, foundations and individuals. There is a cost to attend the camp but they try to ensure that no child is ever turned away. And that’s where Anthony Ast comes in once again: “One day I wish to go back as someone who is a leader of the camp and a peer who helps run everything. I’d love to raise money for kids to be sent to camp as well because I was in their shoes and I know what they are going through. I know how important the camp is for them, and anyone with diabetes, and I want to do anything in my power to help out in the diabetic community and help send kids to camp. It was a life changing experience for me, as they should get an opportunity for it to be for them.”
Remember that Anthony is only 17 years of age himself, but his maturity and passion to help is resemblant of someone who has lived a full life and understands the value of giving back. “This is a cause that’s very close to my heart and that’s why I want to give back”, he stated. “It’s been such a big part of my life, even to this day. I am a proud type one diabetic.”
For anyone wishing to participate in Camp Kakhamela’s 50th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, they would love to have you join them. Again, it is scheduled from 11:30 to 4pm at the Richmond Olympic Skating Oval (6111 River Road), and entry is by donation.
You can RSVP by visiting www.diabetes.ca/campk50 and all the information on the event can be found online by visiting www.campk50.ca
You can also find out more information by phoning (604) 732-1331 or 1 (800) 665-6526 ext. 231 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org