Connecting for a Cause

TYPICAL KID Annabelle Adkinson (left), enjoys riding her scooter and playing with her sister, Ava, despite her juvenile diabetes diagnosis, says her mother, Erin (right). Photo by Scott Holstein.
Connecting for a CauseOne Mother Helps Emerald Coast Families Join Forces to Beat Juvenile Diabetes 

By Jennifer Walker-Journey

To Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson and his wife, Erin, their 8-year-old daughter Annabelle was the picture of health. She loved playing outside at their DeFuniak Springs home and doing stunts on her scooter.

“She is fearless on that thing,” says Erin Adkinson.

In the fall of 2008, the energetic Annabelle became ill with what her parents thought was a stomach virus. But her vomiting continued for hours until her small body was limp and gaunt.

“It was horrifying,” Adkinson says.

They rushed Annabelle to the emergency room, where they learned that their young daughter was barely clinging to life. The diagnosis: juvenile diabetes, also known as Type I diabetes.

Each year, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. The symptoms come on suddenly for young children and include extreme thirst, frequent urination, drowsiness, sugar in the urine, sudden vision changes, increased appetite, weight loss, a fruit odor on the breath, heavy breathing and unconsciousness.

The disease leaves its victims reliant on injected or pumped insulin for life. It carries a constant threat of devastating complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack, stroke and pregnancy complications. To survive, those with the disease must take multiple injections of insulin daily or use a pump that constantly infuses them with insulin. They also must test their blood six or more times daily.

“We were shocked,” Adkinson says. “We didn’t even know the signs or symptoms.”

The Adkinsons got a crash course on diabetes from Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola. Looking back, they now realize there were warning signs. Annabelle had lost a little weight, was always thirsty and became grouchy when she was hungry. But with no family history of the disease, those symptoms were easily overlooked.

Despite the education she received from the hospital, Adkinson says she felt alone. She wanted desperately to connect with other families who were dealing with juvenile diabetes. She craved a forum in which families like hers could share ideas and their children could connect with others going through similar experiences.

Just a few months after Annabelle was diagnosed, Adkinson established a Web site,, for families living with juvenile diabetes. She also plans to set up regular support-group meetings.

Adkinson’s hope is that by getting out the word, she can encourage more parents to have their children tested for the disease.

Eat Right with Tommy the Tomato

By Mike McLafferty

Teaching your kids about good nutrition can be a laborious task for any parent – especially when all kids really want to eat are candy and cookies – but Tommy the Tomato has come to save the day!

The new children’s book “The Adventures of Tommy the Tomato” by author and nutritionist Jay Holt delivers a fun-filled message to kids about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The book centers on Tommy and his group of food friends, such as Barry the Banana and Yogi the Yogurt, as they go through life lessons and learn how important eating right really is.

“Kids don’t really understand the finer points of nutrition,” says Holt, “but they do understand fun, learning and what tastes good. ‘The Adventures of Tommy the Tomato’ will introduce kids – and their parents – to the benefits of food in a fun way that is relevant to their lives.”

The book, which is $11.95, can be ordered at


Tiny Trendsetters

By Rosanne Dunkelberger

If you’re wondering what cute outfit Suri Cruise is sporting these days or what diaper bag could possibly carry all the essentials when the Jolie-Pitt crew goes for a stroll, have we got a pair of Web sites for you.

The first,, features snapshots and chitchat about celebrity parents – and especially their offspring. And if you want your little one to have the Hollywood look too, visit and click on “Celebrity Favorites.” Our personal choice: An $85 baby’s first golf club (Barron Trump’s got one) that is engraved with Junior’s vital statistics and custom-built to the baby’s birth length.