Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Should Children Go To Camp

Category: Child Care


Should I send my child to camp? In my opinion, as a past camper, counselor and camp doctor for almost 20 years combined, I would say absolutely YES! Camping allows a child a unique experience which he may not receive otherwise. He has a chance to feel independent and sleep away from home, Mom, Dad and brothers and sisters. He is usually close to nature and has an opportunity to appreciate the simple beauty of the world we live in a way he may not ever notice back at home. He is exposed to other children and makes new friends. He meets and is inspired by many wonderful young adult counselors and camp directors. All in all, summer camp provides a special, memorable growing experience which in most cases is very positive and will help to stretch your child to be a better and more complete person. Everything mentioned for "he" applies equally to "she" in the case of sending your daughter to camp.

Some of the best camps are simple and inexpensive day camps such as Blue Ribbon Camp in Grand Coteau which is available every summer in our area; Camp Mountain Bayou for Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts; Camp Thistlethwaite Day Camp for Tiger Cubs and Brownies; Camp Grant Walker for 4H children and many other inexpensive, low pressure, non-profit camps available for children in the greater Opelousas area. Other great camps are also available for a child with very special interests such as a music camp, a church camp, or a special athletic camp.

I especially like camps designed for kids with specific medical problems such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, cerebral palsy, cancer, heart disease or any other specific chronic medical problem. There are camps for each of these diagnoses available in Louisiana. If you have a special child interested in these type camps, please call or write the American Camping Association for their guide. It lists camps for asthma, behavioral disorders, cancer, diabetes, emotional disorders, epilepsy, hearing impairments, hemophilia, learning disabilities, mental retardation, body movement limitations, obesity, speech impairments and visual impairments. It can be obtained by dialing 1-800-428- CAMP or writing to:

American Camping Association
5000 State Road 67 N
Martinsville, IN 46151

Another good reference is the guide to summer camps and summer schools which can be obtained from:

Porter Sergeant Publishers, Inc.
11 Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02108
or call 617-523-1670.

Also parents can call the:

American Camping Association at 317-342-8456

to check on specific costs of any camps they have in question.

I am especially proud of a camp started nine summers ago for children with asthma. The name of the camp is Camp Azzie, and it is held annually now at Chicot State Park. Camp Azzie is Louisiana's primary asthma camp. This summer it will be held during the last week of July and will be available for kids from six to fourteen. Older children who have gone to camp before will be encouraged to come back as counselors for the younger children. The camp is sponsored by the Opelousas General Hospital and was started as a brain child from three wonderful young ladies who worked in the respiratory department nine years ago. They are Betsy Thibodeaux, Charisse Comeaux and Anne Speyrer. Through their diligence and their determination, they started a fine asthma camp which has grown into a very fine statewide camp attracting kids from all corners of Louisiana. Sam Price came in the third year and served as Camp Director and built the program up even stronger. In the past two years, Mike Mullins has taken over as Camp Director and has continued the great tradition of Camp Azzie. I am very proud to be one of the co-clinical directors, along with Dr. J.Y. Bordelon, of this camp and look forward to swimming, singing and teaching asthma skills to all the kids who attend this summer. Finally, all the pediatricians in the greater Opelousas and Ville Platte area have been very supportive of this program, especially Dr. Thad Kretchmer and Dr. Lynn Mason who have spent several nights at the camp and have given of their time to promote good safe camping for the children. The greatest benefit of Camp Azzie, in my opinion, is that the kids learn how to better control their asthma. They learn trigger factors to avoid and common sense measures so that they are able to stay calm when they have an asthma attack. I find that the kids who have attended this camp have more confidence than their parents and have a calming effect on the whole family. If you are interested in Camp Azzie, please be sure to call the Respiratory Department and ask for Mike Mullins for an application to fill out and get signed up before that last week in July before camp fills up.

Camping is a wonderful way of sharing joy and fellowship away from the stresses and worries of everyday life. I strongly recommend it to people of all ages as a means of rejuvenating your spirit. I encourage you to send your children to the camp which seems best for them. I encourage you as parents and adults to volunteer and get involved in camps. I promise you will get much more from it than you give.