Worthington native Graupman poised to assist Camp Sweet LifeMANKATO — Gail Selberg Graupman is certainly no stranger to triathlons, but the one she’s training to compete in June 9 will have her running, biking and swimming like her life depended on it.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
MANKATO — Gail Selberg Graupman is certainly no stranger to triathlons, but the one she’s training to compete in June 9 will have her running, biking and swimming like her life depended on it.
Actually, it’s not her life, but the lifestyle of her daughter, that has her campaigning to raise money for the first time in her competitive racing career.
Graupman’s daughter, Lilli, was diagnosed last July 5 with Type 1 diabetes. She was just 7 years old at the time, and spent two days in the hospital to get her diabetes under control. Meanwhile, Gail and her husband, John, received a crash course in insulin injections, carbohydrate monitoring and glucose testing.
About a month later, Lilli attended Camp Sweet Life, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to meet the needs of children with diabetes.
“We heard about Camp Sweet Life while in the hospital,” said Graupman, the daughter of Dennis and Judy Selberg of rural Worthington. “It was awesome and the best thing (Lilli) could have done. She was able to meet many other kids with diabetes as well. She learned about the insulin pump and that got us started on our medical technology route.”
Camp Sweet Life isn’t just a summer camp for kids with diabetes. The Mankato-based organization hosts activities throughout the year, from bonfires and hayrides to sledding. It relies on donations to be able to do these things.
While Graupman has considered fundraising runs in the past, like the Susan G. Komen Run for a Cure or Team in Training, she’s never sought out donations to compete — until now.
Graupman is hoping to get 100 families to donate $10 each toward Camp Sweet Life as she prepares to compete in a Half-Ironman triathlon June 9 in Rockford, just west of the Twin Cities. It’s the most strenuous event she’s ever prepared for, and consists of swimming 1.2 miles in a lake, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles.
“I love the idea of raising money for Camp Sweet Life because they help Lilli live in the here and now, rather than waiting for cures and more research to be done,” said Graupman, adding that the research is vitally important as well.
“My motto is I don’t train and compete, I exercise and participate,” she added with a laugh.
In the midst of her 12-week training regimen, Graupman said she bikes twice a week with friends — sometimes up to 50 miles per day — swims two or three times a week and runs three or four times a week.
“My first goal is to get to the starting line healthy,” she said. “They have a cutoff for the swim and the bike (portions) and I want to make that for sure. My other goal is to not walk on the run. It should be no longer than a seven-hour race.”
When Graupman thinks back on her days of schooling in Worthington, she admits she “hated track and running.”
“I would try and hide on the side of the track for the mile warm-up,” she said with a laugh.
Still, she was a three-sport athlete, playing volleyball, softball and basketball for WHS.
“I didn’t get into running until college or later, when I actually enjoyed running,” said Graupman, a former physical education/health teacher and coach. She’s now a stay-at-home mom to four children and volunteers to coach their activities.
It was over the Fourth of July holiday in 2011 when the Graupmans noticed a pattern in their daughter that was cause for concern. Lilli, then 7, was always thirsty and making a lot of trips to the restroom.
With a little research on the Internet, the couple realized she may have diabetes, and took her in to the local clinic the day after the holiday. Lilli was immediately admitted to Immanuel St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Mankato.
“July and August were tough,” Graupman recalled. “It was this shock and you’re thrown into the world of carb counting. I’m thankful she was diagnosed in the summertime.”
In those two days Lilli spent in the hospital, her parents were learning how to count carbs and learn correct portion sizing, as well as help Lilli take three to six shots a day.
“We bought a scale so we could weigh her food and count out carbs,” Graupman said. “It’s gotten easier as we’ve gone along.”
Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and Graupman said something “triggered it” along the way for Lilli.
“We were told at the clinic that a small percentage are genetic,” she said, adding that no one else in the family has diabetes.
Lilli is their third of four children and is in the second grade at Lake Crystal.
Helping the camp
Camp Sweet Life brings children with diabetes together so they can learn from each other and learn to enjoy life.
“It has been awesome for Lilli to meet other kids who go through what she does,” Graupman said. “It’s helped us meet other parents who are dealing with this.”
While her goal is to get 100 families to donate $10 each toward Camp Sweet Life, Graupman said she hopes to surpass it. The donations will be used to pay for qualified people to help with the educational programs during the summer.
“Their big camp in August has all volunteer RNs,” she said. “Last year was the first year they did an overnight camp, one night, and this year it’s two nights. I’m raising money to pay for the qualified people who are there to help run the camp in the summertime.”
The camp, which is located east of Mankato on Lake Washington, draws children from all across Minnesota.
“They have a day camp for the younger kids and then 8 and up can stay overnight,” Graupman said. The first day of the camp there is a parent session from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a nutritionist, a psychologist, a doctor. There are also speakers brought in to inspire the children to not let diabetes get them down; about being able to do anything they want to do.
Lilli is excited about returning to the camp, and equally excited about her mom’s participation in the race to raise funds for Camp Sweet Life.
Donations may be sent to Graupman, with checks made to Camp Sweet Life, at 53962 188th St., Mankato MN. 56001.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.