LIHUE — Malia Bever is no stranger to Type 1 diabetes.
The Koloa teen was 4 years old when she was diagnosed, after her mom noticed Malia’s eating patterns and weight had changed.
During the next few years, there were ups and downs as the family adjusted to her diagnosis and navigated the questions that came with it.
“There’s this sort of angry stage people go through after they’re diagnosed, and that happened with me when I was younger,” Bever said. “I’ve experienced every stage of it, up to now.”
The Southern California native is now 17. She moved to Kauai with her family in 2014. She was involved in Type 1 diabetes-centered youth outreach programs in California, and she’s still using her time in Hawaii to find ways to connect people who have been diagnosed.
In 2016, Bever started a support group for people with Type 1 diabetes on Kauai, focused on connecting teens and tweens. She held a summer bash that year, and is repeating the Type 1 Kauai Family Retreat at Makanalani Estates in Kilauea June 9-11. It is free.
“The retreat is about being together with people like you,” Bever said. “We share our stories and we have some information about Type 1 diabetes, because for the longest time I didn’t even really know what it was.”
One story Bever shares is getting a service dog when she was 9 as a way to help manage the emotional swings and changes in her body.
“Everything got a little easier when we got Nick Jonas — that’s his name,” Bever said. “He used to go everywhere with me, but now he stays home quite a bit.”
She said it’s important for kids with the diagnosis to know about tricks to live well with Type 1 diabetes, like getting a service animal.
In 2010, Bever attended Camp Sweeney in Texas. That’s where she got the inspiration for the Kauai retreat, which is her own smaller-scale version.
The Texas camp convenes each year for three weeks. It’s a traditional summer camp with games, arts and crafts, and a paddle out, all for kids with Type 1 diabetes. But it also has medical staff and trained dietitians, so kids can focus on fun.
“It’s such an epic camp,” Bever said.
For the Kauai retreat, Bever is including everyone in the family.
Bever’s mom, Jessica, and grandmother, Diana, will be lending a hand with the event, and will share how they coped with Malia’s diagnosis as she’s grown up.
“My mom let me go to sleepovers and stuff,” Bever said. “A lot of kids with Type 1 don’t get to do that kind of stuff because of the insulin, but she let me be more free.”
In addition to Makanalani’s open space with donkeys, sheep and horses, Bever plans to set up a slip-n-slide and have an evening where adults and kids can play separately.
“Last year, we had a movie night downstairs and a nice dinner for the adults upstairs,” Bever said. “We’re going to do something like that this year, too.”
Info: email type1kauai@ yahoo.com or call 278-8765.