Camping for a Cause
Georgia's diabetic children get big results from Camp Little Shot
by Jennifer A. Morrell

Georgia's children who are affected by diabetes are being empowered through an annual camp known as Camp Little Shot. Held at Rock Eagle 4-H Camp in Eatonton, the camp teaches kids to take charge of their disease and improve how they see themselves from an emotional perspective.

Thomas Jones, M.D., started Camp Little Shot 25 years ago. The co-ed camp is for children aged 6 to 13, or 14 to 18 (a separate camp called Adventure Camp for older kids), and all campers and many staff members have insulin-dependent diabetes. Jones, who moved to Macon from West Virginia in 1980, specializes in endocrinology. He was asked by a local pediatrician years ago to see a child who had a diabetic condition and was able to help the child to get better. Soon, more pediatricians began sending children Jones' way.

Already familiar with diabetes camps around the country, Jones knew there wasn't then such a camp in Georgia. Most kids had to travel to North Carolina, and that was usually only afforded by more affluent families. Jones felt there needed to be a camp in middle Georgia for indigent kids - one that was free or otherwise affordable.

Although the camp is not advertised, it drew 81 kids in May of this year. Though some parents do give donations, the staff of Camp Little Shot does not ask for money. Funding comes from private family trusts, donations, grants (the Medical Center of Central Georgia recently gave a grant) and fundraising activities. In August, for example, Camp Little Shot organized a GALA dance that was held at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. In September, the Race for Camp Little Shot 5K Road Race was scheduled as well to raise additional funds.

Jones' wife, Elizabeth, is the camp director and plans and manages the fundraising events. "Elizabeth has been the force behind the development of the camp, even though it was my idea," says Jones. "We are a good motivational team who focuses on wellness."

The staff consists of volunteers, many of whom grew up attending the camp each summer.

What they take away
Kids who attend Camp Little Shot take away more than a fun experience with peers. They gain a sense of independence and a wealth of education about their disease.

"Many of these kids don't know any other kids with diabetes," says Jones. "They feel different when they are the only kid who can't eat a piece of cake. The kids are encouraged to talk about their frustrations and angers, and reminded that they can do anything they put their minds to."

Camp Little Shot, in many ways, makes being "special" seem more "normal." Although the children look completely normal on the outside, many of them aren't even allowed to attend a "regular" summer camps. Camp Little Shot provides them with a safe environment, where insulin levels are checked six to eight times per day, including a 3 a.m. check. Accepting the disease and feeling good about taking control of it are the ultimate goals of the camp's mission. Embarrassment of the disease should not be a factor as the kids learn to take optimal care of their bodies. The menu is, of course, diabetic friendly. Educational sessions are interactive and fun for the participants.

Future plans in Jones' hopper include an offshoot of Camp Little Shot: an obesity camp. Obesity is becoming a nationwide epidemic. Kids must now fight off Type II Diabetes, which obesity can cause, as well as Type I Diabetes, which can cause heart disease.

"I have been blessed by a higher spirit and, rather than gather, I give and smile no matter what obstacle is out there," says Jones.

For more information, contact Camp Little Shot at (478) 633-1531.

The medical team at Camp Little Shot includes:
  • Thomas Jones, M.D.
  • Elizabeth Jones, R.N.,
    certified diabetes educator
  • Julie Deese, R.N.,
    certified diabetes educator
  • Ishmalina Brew, R.N.,
    MCCG residents and diabetes nursing staff
  • Sherri Hearn, R.N.

Dr. Thomas Jones at a glance:

"I have been chief of staff of two hospitals in Macon and I am chairman of the Olin H. Weaver society to get physicians to contribute to the hospital financially. I serve on one hospital's board. I am on the Keydet Board of Virginia Military Institute (VMI), my college, to finance athletics. At VMI, I played lacrosse and soccer. I have completed 24 marathons, a 50-mile race and three Ironman competitions. I love history and lecture at our yearly History of Medicine Conference in Macon, where physicians come from all over Georgia. I am an associate professor of medicine at Mercer Medical School, where I teach students and residents."
- Dr. Thomas Jones

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