Zharia Richards

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2006 at the age of seven. At the time, I was a little timid and self-conscious about my diabetes. I didn’t have anybody that I could relate to, so I felt secluded in some ways from the rest of my friends. As I continued to live with type 1 diabetes, I became more confident in myself. But it wasn’t until I found Camp Kudzu that I learned to truly embrace my diabetes and feel comfortable living with it. 

I first attended Camp Kudzu as a camper when I turned eight years old. Camp Kudzu was smaller back then but that didn’t stop me from finding the spectacular family and support system I have today. At camp, I instantly felt that I belonged. Everyone around me was at least in one way exactly like me. This sense of belonging and knowing that I was not alone was important in building my character as I grew up. 

As I grew older and continued to attend camp, I began to formulate a description of Camp Kudzu into one word. Home. Camp Kudzu was not only a place I went to every summer to escape everything outside of it; it was a home. I’ve gained friends who also serve as my support system and my outlet. I’ve gained connections, mentors, and role models I aspire to be like as I live a long, healthy life with type 1 diabetes. Because of Camp Kudzu I have gained the ability and the strength to overcome obstacles that have potential to bring me down. Because of Camp Kudzu, I have been able to get through tough times in my diabetes and learn more about myself and my abilities than I would have ever known. Because of Camp Kudzu, I am able to confidently attend college 10 hours away from home at Hampton University and work towards my bachelor’s degree in science. Because of Camp Kudzu, I am positive that I can follow my dreams to complete medical school without letting my diabetes consume me. 

Camp Kudzu has given me so much as a camper, which is why I am proud to come back as a volunteer and help give other kids the confidence, love, and opportunities it gave to me. I completed my counselor-in-training years when I turned 17 and was no longer able to attend as camper, and I can truly say that doing that was one of the best decisions of my life. During this time, I was able to be on the other side and be one of the people impacting the lives of those around me. This gave me even more insight into what Camp Kudzu is truly about. My experience working alongside all of Camp Kudzu’s wonderful staff and volunteers has shown me the beauty in everything Camp Kudzu has to offer. I know that there is no better way to give back to this phenomenal organization than to volunteer my time. For this very reason and many others, I am more than excited and honored to return to Camp Kudzu as a volunteer this upcoming summer and many more summers to come. 

Camp Kudzu has helped me become the person that I am today. Because of Camp Kudzu, I know for a fact that I am MORE than a NUMBER. Camp Kudzu will always have a special place in my heart and I will forever be a part of the Camp Kudzu Family.