Savannah Davidson Caroline Woodall and Chloe Willis

LHJH Mascot Chloe Willis, Savannah Davidson and Caroline Woodall

Eighth grader Savannah Davidson is hoping to go Camp Sweeney this summer. The Lake Highlands Junior High cheerleader, who performed with her squad at Monday’s Play for the Day benefitting Camp Sweeney at the LH Town Center, is 2nd on the waiting list for the summer camp for children with Type I diabetes (sometimes called juvenile diabetes).

“It’s totally a coincidence that I’m here [with the LHJH cheerleaders],” she told me, “but I feel like I would be here, even if I hadn’t made the squad. I feel like I’m one of these people, and you have a bond that can’t really be broken if you’re a Type I diabetic.”

You can see my photos from the Play for the Day event here.

“Going to Camp Sweeney would be like a breath of fresh air,” continued Savannah, who was diagnosed this time last year. “People stereotype us, like, ‘you don’t look obese, so why do you have diabetes?’ I have to say, ‘it’s not the same [as Type II].’ Everyone at camp would know that.

“Being a diabetic leaves an effect on you, it makes you very mature. You have to be, because you have to take care of yourself. At camp, everyone is going to know how it is. They’ll say, ‘don’t worry, we’ve got you.’”

Caroline Woodall, her longtime friend and Wildcat cheer teammate, admits watching her grapple with the disease these past few months hasn’t been easy.

“It feels completely normal to me now, but I wasn’t used to watching her do her injections at first,” said Caroline. “I remember when she didn’t know she was diabetic, and she got very, very sick. She went to the hospital and I was freaking out. In the weeks before that I was really worried about her, because she was acting abnormal and feeling sick. Once we knew what was wrong, she felt better and I felt better. Now I trust that she’s in good hands, wherever she is. I think that nothing bad can happen to her, because she handles her diabetes really well.”

“I hope she gets to go Camp Sweeney – I think it will be really good for her, “continued Caroline. “She’ll find new friends that will be able to help her more than I can, and that’s great. She knows a lot already, but I think she will learn even more. The safer she is, the better.”

“The benefits of Camp Sweeney are impossible to describe,” explained Hannah Barry, a Lake Highlands resident and recent graduate of Dallas Lutheran School. Hannah first headed off to camp at age 11 and will return next week before enrolling at Austin College in the fall.

“Your [non-diabetic] friends see you taking your shots, but they don’t really get you. They don’t get what it’s like to wake up with high blood sugar and be, like, ‘I don’t want to do it today.’ Being with other diabetics is such a relief, because it’s the lifting of a burden you didn’t even know was there. I’ve explained to two friends what to do if I have a problem, but when I’m out with my friends, there’s this feeling of ‘I’ve got to be on top of it myself.’ At camp, I don’t have to think about it. I can just relax for three weeks.

“Beyond learning more about diabetes and helping to get my blood sugars in check,” continued Hannah, “Camp Sweeney has also made me a better person. It made me more aware of the people around me and more willing to serve others.”

Mary Claire Stewart, LHHS 2013 grad and rising UT senior, agrees.

“When I was diagnosed at 8, my world was rocked, and I didn’t feel that I could stand on solid ground. Coming to camp two weeks later and seeing girls that were managing their diabetes well and living life to the full – older girls and also girls my age – it was a real picture that there is hope, and there is life and diabetes is manageable.”

Stewart, who now works as a counselor at Camp Sweeney, admits the camp did as much for her parents, Robb and Kathy, as it did for her.

“My parents are two of the strongest people in the world, but my being at camp allowed them to rest. Camp was a place they could trust to medically take care of me. My parents needed a break.”

You can read Advocate’s 2014 story on Camp Sweeney’s medical director, Dr. Ernie Fernandez, here.

“The Lake Highlands Public Improvement District appreciates the opportunity to co-host this Memorial Day event with Camp Sweeney,” said Kathy Stewart, executive director of the LHPID. “It brings hundreds of people to Lake Highlands to enjoy our parks, trails and wonderful community.”

Play for the Day, which featured a 5K race, food trucks, an art show and sale, live music, performances by the LHHS Highlandettes and LHJH cheerleaders, children’s games, face painting and much more, raised more than $90,000 for scholarships to send diabetic children to camp. If you missed your chance, it’s not too late to donate. Contributions to Camp Sweeney can be made online here.

Isabella Hess, Hannah Barry, Alexis Stephens, Katarina Fuller.

Isabella Hess, Hannah Barry, Alexis Stephens and Katarina Fuller sell breakfast tacos and cupcakes

Mary Clare Stewart (in blue) with her parents and fellow Camp Sweeney counselors at Play for the Day

Michael Hall, Kathy Stewart, Robb Stewart, Mary Claire Stewart, Cole Carrick and Katie Hayman