The Y – There When You Need It Most


Earlier this school year, Zia Sutherland was enjoying 5th grade and Y Success Afterschool at Bay Crest Elementary. “She was a healthy kid; never been hospitalized,” recalls Zia’s mother, Teresa Hernandez. “Back in November, she was having bad headaches at school and I took her to the doctor.” Tests revealed Zia had a bad sinus infection that spread to her brain.


The infection grew so bad, Zia required four different brain surgeries. “It’s jaw-dropping because none of her doctors thought she would be able to make it,” shares Teresa. “To hear your child may die is a mother’s worst nightmare. I never thought something like this would happen and it can happen to anyone.” Thankfully, the surgeries were successful and Zia is now recovering in physical therapy.


When Zia’s Y afterschool family heard of her ordeal, they immediately sprang into action. Youth Development Site Supervisor Elena Vazquez worked with her staff and afterschoolers to raise money and gifts to make Zia’s Christmas special.


“We have good relationships with the staff. For Elena to come visit us in the hospital and take it upon herself to raise money because she knows how hard it’s going to be for us taking time off work, we were so appreciative,” testifies Teresa. “We have a really good group of people on our side. They’ve been extremely amazing. Everyone has been so supportive.”


Zia’s friends from Y Success Afterschool also wrote her personal letters during her recovery process. The outpouring of support has meant the world to Zia and her family. “It was very intense for her – to be nine years old and go through all of that,” says Teresa. “I’ve learned what the definition of strength is. She is definitely my hero.”


The Tampa Y is proud Zia and her family found a caring support system at the Y. We’re glad you’re feeling better, Zia, and back with your Y family!

Pictured above:  After a serious health scare, 9-year-old Zia Sutherland received visits, gifts and letters from her Y Success Afterschool friends.







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