By Jason Wesseldyk
Plainwell Middle School student Cameron Larsen recently received some exciting news.
Larsen, a seventh grader, has been paired with the Michigan State University Men’s golf team through Team Impact, a program that “matches children facing serious illness and disability with college sports teams, creating a long-term, life-changing experience for everyone involved.”
When he was nine years old, Larsen was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“I was super excited when I found out about being selected for Team Impact,” Larsen said. “I love MSU and playing sports, so it was a great fit.”
Larsen will work with the MSU golf team twice a month for the next two years. He hopes to use the experience to help him fulfill his dream of playing college athletics one day, while serving as an inspiration for other children battling illnesses or other challenges.
“I want to tell other kids that it gets better,” he said. “Don’t give up and keep going. Do all the things you want to do.”
Larsen’s parents—Chad and Amy Larsen—heard about Team Impact through their pediatric endocrinologist’s office.
“Cam loves all things sports and we thought we would apply on his behalf,” Amy Larsen said. “In order for Cam to qualify, he had to have a serious or chronic illness. His T1D qualified.”
After making it through an initial interview, the family had a more in-depth interview via Zoom. Shortly after that, the call came that Team Impact wanted to proceed with finding Larsen a match.
The COVID pandemic delayed the placement process. Eventually, though, the Larsens learned of the match with the MSU men’s golf team.
“We really tried to wait until it was as official as possible before telling Cam,” Amy Larsen said. “When we got that call that it was MSU and the men’s golf team, we were super excited. Cam loves MSU and in the last few years has become more interested in playing golf. So, we knew it would be a good fit.”
In addition to working on his golf game, Larsen will also attend sporting events with members of the MSU golf team.
“We plan to be all in and make the absolute best out of this opportunity,” Amy Larsen said.
Larsen’s Type-1 diabetes diagnosis came three years ago shortly after he started fourth grade. He began exhibiting several issues—an ear infection that wouldn’t go away, random vomiting, bed wetting and a feeling of fogginess—that concerned his parents.
Tests eventually confirmed the diagnosis.
“We were given a massive binder with so much info,” Amy Larsen said. “How to administer insulin, emergency glucagon, what a carb means, math equations to determine how much to administer the right dose and all the what-ifs.
“I remember having so many questions: How would we ever allow him to go back to school? How would we let him out of our sight? How would we ever sleep again?”
The news was particularly tough for Larsen’s younger brother, Dylan.
“How do you explain to a child your brother could die if we don’t intervene even if it is in the middle of your birthday party,” Amy Larsen said. “There have been moments I have left Dylan’s event to go be with Cam and help him. We’ve worked really hard as parents to make sure both boys feel important and seen.
“It hasn’t been easy, but with technology, support from loved ones and knowledge, this life has become easier for all of us.”
While his parents tried to figure out what the family’s new normal would be, Larsen made it clear he would not be giving up sports.
In addition to golf, he participates in football, basketball, track and baseball.
“Right after the diagnosis, Cam told us he was not sitting out of football and that he would be okay,” Amy Larsen said “Here this nine year old is talking his parents off the ledge. We realized pretty quickly how mentally and physically tough Cam is and to say how proud we are will never be enough.
“This kid is our hero. He’s resilient, tough as nails and fiercely competitive. I have handed him glucose tabs as he is dribbling down the court with a ball in one hand. My husband has run down the sideline of football with Cam’s Dexcom so we would continue to get a reading on his sugar. It’s been a team effort, that’s for sure.”
That team effort goes beyond the immediate family.
“It takes a village and we are so grateful to the wonderful doctors, diabetic educators, teachers, secretaries, coaches, Cam’s buddies and their families, our friends and families for all of the love and support they have shown our family,” Amy Larsen said. “We’re so excited for Cam to shine a light on T1D and even more grateful to be a Spartan.”