Team Clark Bros: Racin’ for Mason

Carter and Mason Clark

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Lake Highlands neighbor Brad Clark was just five years old when he was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, referred to in those days as juvenile diabetes. When he turned eight, Pamela and the late Bob Clark began sending their son to Camp Sweeney, where children learn to manage their disease while experiencing the joys of summer camp.

Technology was much different for diabetics back then — kids had no continuous glucose monitors to keep track of their blood count and no insulin pumps to administer life-sustaining insulin. Camp Sweeney was designed to host children for three weeks in the piney woods playing sports and meeting other diabetics. That was just the treatment he needed, Brad says today.

“Friendships are what make Camp Sweeney special. There aren’t a lot of diabetics in the neighborhood, so a kid can sometimes feel alone. It’s nice to get together with other kids who are going through the same thing you are so you can share stories. Plus, Camp Sweeney makes it fun.”

Brad married Mindy, and now they have two sons. Mason, 10, is diabetic, and this will be his third year as a Camp Sweeney camper. Carter, 8, will attend for the first time through the camp’s sibling program.

“Camp Sweeney makes me feel like I’m at home,” says Mason. “It makes me feel like I’m a normal person. Since none of my friends is diabetic, they don’t really understand.”

Mason enjoys teaching his friends about diabetes when he returns from camp each year, and they seem eager to listen. He admits he gets tired of being diabetic at times, especially when his blood sugar shoots dangerously low or high.

Mindy gets emotional when singing the praises of Camp Sweeney and its staff — especially its longtime director, Dr. Ernie Fernandez.

“We chose Dr. Ernie as our pediatrician randomly. Then when Mason was diagnosed at 14 months old, we already had a beautiful relationship,” she recalls. “Camp Sweeney helps Mason feel like he’s not alone.”

About 40 of Mason’s friends and family gathered Monday for Camp Sweeney’s Play for the Day 5K and festival, held each year in Lake Highlands. The event raised almost $200,000 for scholarships and programming, and it enabled campers, counselors and alums to gather for a reunion of sorts before camp sessions begin.

You may check out my photos here.

If you’d like to support Camp Sweeney, you may donate online here.

A member of the Clark Bros team shows off her arm art.