Jade Madison, 11, plays field hockey at Camp Golden Treasures. Photo by Cliff Hollis
(June 28, 2007)
So far, so good at the inaugural Camp Golden Treasures, East Carolina University's healthy weight camp for girls.
Nearly 60 girls from North Carolina, other states and the Bahamas arrived in Greenville Sunday for three or six weeks to lose weight, improve wellness and learn how to stay healthy.
"It's fun this week. It's a lot of exercise, but after we get in the pool, everything mellows out," said Melendez Bryant, 17, of Trenton.
The camp is led by ECU physicians and others experienced in working with overweight and obese children. Camp director Ira Green had led successful youth weight camps in the past. The camp last until Aug. 3, though some girls are staying only three weeks.
"This is just tremendously wonderful, tremendously successful," said Dr. David Collier, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine and director of the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center. "I think what it's doing is making them realize they're here for themselves."
Campers are staying in ECU dormitories, and ECU students are serving as counselors.
Camp Golden Treasures not only features traditional weight-loss tactics such as exercise and low-calorie meals but also educational sessions with family members and cooking classes to help campers make lifestyle changes to help keep the weight off.
"We know we can achieve good short-term gains," Collier said. "We need to work extra hard in our region to help change the family environment and home environment these kids go back into."
Toward that end, a 4-H Club just for campers from Jones County is planned, Collier added. Case managers in Pitt County will help local girls and their families improve their nutrition and physical activity.
One success story from Green's previous camp is Lena Madison, 13, of New Buffalo, Mich. Since she first attended camp two years ago, she's lost 40 pounds, grown five inches and captained her school basketball, volleyball and soccer teams and the cheerleading squad.
"I'm a lot better now," she said. "I feel like I can keep up with everyone more, and it's more fun to play when you can keep up with everyone more."
With her at camp this year is her 11-year-old sister, Jade. Their parents were getting concerned about Jade's eating habits, but she wouldn't attend camp unless her older sister came, too.
"It's really fun, and you get to do lots of sports," Jade said as she took a break from playing field hockey. Of having her older sister with her, she said, "I already know somebody, and if I miss my mom and dad, she can come and make me feel better."
Camp Golden Treasures has girls from different backgrounds and they face temptations from nearby convenience stores and a Krispy Kreme donut shop.
"These girls are learning to do things in a socially integrated environment that's probably helping them learn to make better decisions," Collier said. "They're finding kids who are accepting them unconditionally."
While the goal of the camp is to lose weight and help campers learn to keep it off, Collier said, broader goals are to reduce the chances the girls will develop health problems later, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and joint disease.
"The real challenge is maintenance, and that's why we're really interested in the 4-H clubs in Jones County and our case management in Pitt County," Collier said.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of adolescents 12 to 19 are overweight. The same percentage of children ages 6 to 11 is overweight.
The Harold H. Bate Foundation has pledged $25,000 to pay camp expenses for 10 Jones County girls who might otherwise not be able to afford the camp. The Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation is paying expenses for 10 Pitt County low-income girls. The Greenvil