Dr. Ernie Fernandez (in blue) is director of Camp Sweeney. Thea Hutchinson (#25) will attend again this year.

Moss Haven rising third grader Thea Hutchinson was just 4 years old when her parents, Jordan and Tom, began noticing she wasn’t herself. She was droopy at her soccer game and declared she was ready to give up her beloved ballet class. In March of 2020, they took her to see the pediatrician. His orders were clear: run, do not walk, to Children’s Medical Center. Thea had Type I diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes. She needed immediate care.

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A team of doctors and nurses got Thea back on her feet and introduced the family to a range of educational resources and services, including Camp Sweeney for diabetic children. Camp Sweeney was shuttered that year due to the pandemic, but they dropped her off for a 3-week stint the following summer.

Thea learned to count the carbohydrates in her food, make healthy choices at mealtime and account for exercise in her daily plan. Mostly, though, Thea learned that diabetes shouldn’t limit her goals or hamper her achievements.

“I’m not scared,” says Thea, puffing out her chest. “I can do anything.”

Jordan agrees.

“More than anything, Sweeney gave her confidence. Children with Type I diabetes and caregivers of those children never get a break. When you go to Camp Sweeney, you get to be surrounded by other kids with diabetes and feel normal. She doesn’t have to feel embarrassed about taking a shot or checking her blood sugar. This will be her third year at camp, and every time she returns home, she brings a golden nugget that we learn as a family — something small or big that helps her manage her diabetes.”

The Hutchinson family was at Lake Highlands North Recreation Center Monday for Camp Sweeney Play for the Day, a 5K and festival which raises funds for the nonprofit camp. (You may view our photos from the event here.) Thea brought several buddies from Moss Haven and their families, who ran with her in the fun run and enjoyed the carnival-style games. Her friends are supportive, even if they’re too young to fully understand the ins and outs of diabetes.

“Most people in my class don’t know what I’m doing [when I monitor my blood sugar and administer insulin],” says Thea. “I like Camp Sweeney because the counselors help me learn to take care of my diabetes. At camp, everyone has diabetes. We’re all the same. We understand each other.”

The Hutchinsons appreciate Camp Sweeney for teaching Thea to take diabetes seriously and care for herself responsibly. With activities from archery to arts & crafts, podcasting to paintball, rocketry to rock climbing — the options for campers are endless.

“Thea knows she can do anything her three siblings can do,” says Jordan. “She can play a 90-minute soccer game or swim at the pool or jump in the ocean. The only thing we have to think about is her blood sugar. But that doesn’t stop her.”

You may sponsor a camper here.

Cole and Mary Claire Carrick, Kathy and Robb Stewart. Mary Claire attended Camp Sweeney as a child and now works as a Child Life specialist at Children’s Health.