The Gnome Man’s Walk
May 16 – June 25, 2021

One hundred years ago, everything about Richard Humphreys’ plan would be impossible. 

One hundred years ago, a man like 78-year-old Humphreys probably wouldn’t have lived as long as he has. 

But a century after insulin was first introduced as a medical treatment, one of CHMK’s most beloved and influential leaders and friend, who has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 64 years is planning to walk 380 miles, from Pennsylvania to Ohio.

Ending at the Banting Wall at Camp Ho Mita Koda, during their 92nd season of operation and the 100th anniversary of the founding of insulin, Humphreys will be greeted by a full camp of smiling children and staff eagerly waiting to show their gratitude and thanks.  

THE GNOME MANS WALK HAS NOW CONCLUDED

Kirkwood’s ‘Gnome Man’ plans to walk 380 miles to a Type 1 diabetes camp 

On May 16, Humphreys will strap on his pack with his tent and supplies, pick up his handmade rattlesnake-skin walking stick – a gift from his friend Dale Kirkpatrick – and begin his journey. 

He’ll depart his home, which abuts his Gnome Countryside nature trail, a creation that has provided education and inspiration for thousands. His destination is Camp Ho Mita Koda. Read the full story HERE.

All donations will benefit Camp Ho Mita Koda and our Campership Program. In order for the donation to be credited to Rich and his walk, please include a brief note or simply write “Gnome Man” in the provided space for the donation. Without a note, the funds will not be credited appropriately. All donations are fully tax deductible. 

A SWEET LIFE

Humphreys’ 2020 book, “A Sweet Life: Seven Unexpected Blessings of Living with Diabetes”, written with help from his friend Robin Moore, details his life with diabetes, his love of nature, children, walking and his ability to find blessing in unexpected places. Readers looking for inspiration and spiritual insights will find plenty in Humphreys’ pages.

$3.99 for a Kindle edition or $10 for a paperback available on Amazon.

The Gnomeman’s Thoughts of Everyday Life with Diabetes

On June 24th, I will be visiting Camp Ho Mita Koda to join in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the development of insulin. In 1921, insulin was discovered by Sir Frederick Banting and Charles H. Best. There is a statue of Frederick Banting at the camp. My friend Robin Moore will be driving me to camp from my home in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania. The original plan had been for me to make the 380-mile journey on foot, walking secondary roads and camping along the way. I will be looking forward to meeting my young friend Jacob Bueller standing below the statute of Fredrick Banting.

I had made the same walk 13 years ago when I was 65 years old, as a way of raising awareness about the amazing advances in medical treatment for those living with diabetes. I also wanted to let people know that young people who live with diabetes and take care of themselves can live a long and productive life

On May 16, I set out from my home and walked the first 75 miles before realizing that my loss of vision due to macular degeneration was making the walk extremely difficult and I would say somewhat foolhardy.

As I was walking, I had a lot of time to think about my life and about what an important role walking and exercise has played in my life as a diabetic. My experiences at Camp Ho Mita Koda are never far from my mind when I consider the many unexpected blessings that living with diabetes has brought me.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 14 years old. I learned that 95 percent of diabetics have type 2 diabetes, which is altogether different disease. I was treated at the hospital in Clearfield, Pennsylvania and was put on the wrong kind of insulin which caused many hypoglycemic reactions. Because of that I stopped taking insulin and within two weeks was totally fatigued and had lost a lot of weight.

My mother had heard about the Cleveland Clinic and their success with treating juvenile diabetes. So we took a long bus trip out there. One of the complications of high blood sugars is frequent urination. Since there were no restrooms on buses in those days, I had to ask the driver to stop so I could pee. At the Cleveland Clinic I saw Drs. Perry McCullough and Peter Schumacher. They put me on a short-acting insulin and a long-lasting insulin similar to what I take today but entirely different. For the first time in three years, I felt well.

When I was old enough to drive, I would drive to the clinic for check-ups. On one of the trips, I saw a posting at the clinic for Camp Ho Mita Koda, a camp for children living with diabetes. When I was 22, I was a counselor for two years at Camp Bement, an Episcopalian church camp in Massachusetts. I enjoyed the experience a lot and decided I would apply for the job at Camp Ho Mita Koda.

They had just had a major turnover with staff and they hired a new director, George Cervenka. I was hired as program director. George was a high school teacher and football coach and knew how to work well with the older campers. I was good at working with both the younger and older kids. When the camp started in 1969, there were 91 campers. I worked as program director at camp until 1973. When I left the camp, enrollment had grown to 240. I was camp director from 1991 to 2007.

One of my vivid memories is that we started a 14-mile hike for the campers. We road-walked from the camp to a farm which had a stream. We camped out at the farm for one night. We had a school bus to pick up any of the campers who could not do the hike but many did.  I thought it was a wonderful achievement for the campers to say they had walked 14 miles.

A wonderful activity we invented was something we called a slicker hike. When it was raining, we would put on our dirty clothes and walk through mud puddles and hike through the stream.

These are just a few of the wonderful memories that my years at Camp Ho Mita Koda have given me and I am very grateful to have found a place where diabetic children and their counselors can have fun in the natural world.