By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Back in 1999, Sandra McCarthy’s 3-year-old daughter, Colleen, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. No other immediate or distant relatives had a history of the condition, so coping with it became the family’s “new normal.” McCarthy became inspired to help other families in Marlborough who were also trying to manage life with Type 1, so she established a family support network called “Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids.”
According to McCarthy, Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids’ mission is to create connections among local families living with Type 1 diabetes. The families, she added, get involved with “anything that comes up,” whether it’s just a chat on the phone, or getting together in person to go to the library, swim, shop, or for support groups.
“Sharing anything diabetes or not, we have common bonds raising or being Type 1,” McCarthy said.
Before founding Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids, McCarthy was a stay-at-home mother with a child who was beginning private preschool, and a newly diagnosed 3-year-old.
“I had no network within the community, so I made one,” she said. “We were involved at the library and the display case was the perfect opportunity to reach my peeps.”
It turns out that 13 years later, when Colleen was 16, McCarthy herself was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and autoimmune disease, which she was told is also sometimes called L.A.D.A. Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults.
“I needed insulin immediately,” she said. “It truly opened my eyes to what Colleen had experienced most of her life.”
Over the years, more than two dozen Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids’ families have touched the McCarthy’s lives directly, and stay in touch with them.
The kids who are involved when the group was established are now adults who are able to address different needs.
“Being a child with diabetes, you deal with things, and as adults there are even more issues: relationships, financial, employment, social, insurance, politics, etc.,” McCarthy said.
Anyone living in Massachusetts, of any age or relationship to someone living with Type 1 diabetes, is welcome to join the connection with Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids.
“Together we can be less overwhelmed and alone with the challenges of living with Type 1, from the emotional to the physical and financial, and I believe without judgement,” McCarthy said. “This group and the annual library display certainly has done this for me and my family … a way to bring us together and help our community understand life with Type 1 diabetes a little better.”
Being on the front lines of coping with Type 1 diabetes, McCarthy knows that kids don’t outgrow the disease, they didn’t do anything to get it, and it’s a disease for life.
“More kids are being diagnosed and we would love to share with them, and be of support, but just like Type 1 diabetes, you don’t outgrow Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids,” McCarthy noted. “We all need lifelong connections with people that can relate to our journey.”
To connect with Marlborough’s Sweetest Kids, call 508-481-3381 or email [email protected].