Credit: Hank Devos
She went to summer camp, and never really â€¨came back. For People with type 1 diabetes, â€¨thatâ€™s a good thingCalgary, Alberta/Toronto, Ontario // â€¨Age: 28
Jen Hanson doesn't remember her life before diabetesâ€”she was diagnosed at age threeâ€”and never let the condition define her. But she also didnâ€™t feel like she quite fit in until she went to Camp Huronda, an Ontario summer camp for kids with type 1 diabetes, a disease that interferes with the bodyâ€™s ability to produce insulin.
â€śI felt like a normal kid,â€ť she says. â€śIt was a nice break from all the questionsâ€”I didnâ€™t have to explain why I had low blood sugar. My best friends, even now, are from summer camp.â€ť
The experience opened her eyes to what a person with diabetes could achieve, catalyzing a lifelong passion for wild places and adventure. Every summer until she was 25, Hanson returned to Huronda from her familyâ€™s home in Sunderland, Ontario, climbing the ranks from camper to program director. In between, she volunteered for diabetes-oriented charities and earned a masterâ€™s in experiential education from Brock University.
â€śA lot of health professionals and the general population put limitations on what type 1 diabetics can do,â€ť Hanson says. â€śKnowing those limits and pushing them, particularly in the wilderness, is important. Iâ€™ve seen the impact it can have, like major life changes.â€ť
In 2009, Hanson signed up for Connected in Motion (CIM), a new non-profit outdoor education program for people living with type 1 diabetes. Before long, she had partnered with the organizationâ€™s founder, Chloe Steepe. â€śShe is the perfect role model for the [diabetes] community we are working to build,â€ť says Steepe. â€śShe is active, outgoing and lives her life with diabetes without limits. She tries to engage and teach others to do the same.
â€śShe never stops,â€ť Steepe says. â€śHonestly. Never.â€ť
Hanson leads many of the CIM trips, and also helps with the groupâ€™s website, fundraising and everything else it takes to run an active group on a tiny budget that leaves little extra cash for salaries. â€śWhen I got my masterâ€™s there was a point where I had to decide whether to get a real job and a consistent paycheque, or work with a non-profit,â€ť Hanson says. â€śI chose the non-profit. Itâ€™s scary but itâ€™s what I really want to do.â€ť
This profile is part of our Top 30 under 30 feature.