LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Camp Tiger 2018 Blasted Off to Out-of-this-World Adventures!

Camper and counselor at Camp Tiger

For fifty-one weeks of the year, Brian, Addison, Damian, Trinity, Finn, Darius, Jude and 123 of their peers are often treated differently. They are singled out for their special needs. But for one magical week, they are just kids – no differences, no labels, – just kids accepted for who they are. That week is a priceless gift to them and their families from the first-year class of medical students at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, and it’s called Camp Tiger.

“The most important thing I would like people to take away from Camp Tiger is that every single one of our campers is first and foremost a kid,” says Jantzen Collette, Camp Tiger Director. “They want what every other kid wants, and that's just to have fun and be happy. And that is what makes Camp Tiger so amazing – it allows these truly amazing kids to spend a week just being kids.”

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In 1985, first-year medical students at LSU Health New Orleans founded Camp Tiger. Its mission is to give challenged children an enjoyable summer camp experience. For the campers, this may be their only chance during the summer to socialize with other children without being singled out. This week-long day camp provides them with the freedom to play, socialize, and express themselves as healthy, vibrant children.
camper feeding animals at Global Wildlife Center
Each first-year class of LSU Health New Orleans medical students plans, organizes, handles logistics and serves as counselors for the camp, all while adjusting to medical school. The students also raise all of the money needed to put this camp on so it is free to the campers and their families. Camp Tiger is an expensive undertaking. They feed the campers breakfast and lunch. They hire buses and drivers. They pay for admission fees, toys, sports equipment, face painting, art supplies, bounce houses, dunking booths, mini petting zoos and more.
Dr. Patricia Molina chekcing out silent auction items at Camp Tiger Benefit Auction
Although they hold small fundraisers throughout the year including performances by student bands at music clubs in town, the students raise most of the money at the Camp Tiger Benefit and Auction held every spring. The medical students solicit hundreds of items for the silent and live auctions. They book entertainment and food provided by top area restaurants, donated, of course. The scope of the event rivals any of the major fundraising galas in town. The 2018 Camp Tiger Auction was the most successful one in Camp Tiger history, raising $188,000.
“Camp Tiger is by far the largest project I have taken on,” notes Collette. “Over the course of the past school year, I spent twice as much time planning Camp Tiger as I did on schoolwork. It at times did get very challenging trying to balance camp work and schoolwork, but in the end, my top priority was to give these kids the best week I could give them.”
And what a week they had. After breakfast on campus, campers and counselors boarded their spaceships and blasted off for the adventures of the day. They had a “zootastic” experience at the Audubon Zoo, laissez les bons temps rouler at Mardi Gras World, a wild ride at City Park's Amusement Park, found Nemo at the Audubon Aquarium, went on safari at Global Wildlife Center, had a sporting good time at Kidsports at Ochsner Fitness Center, scored big at Laser Tag of Metairie and made groceries at the Children's Museum. The week wrapped up with a carnival on the athletic fields at LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry, complete with snowballs, furry friends, and spacewalks.
Camp Tiger at Mardi Gras World
“One of the best moments from camp would probably have to be at the Camp Tiger Carnival,” Collette recalls. “I remember just looking around at everyone having a blast and feeling such pride in what my classmates and I had accomplished for these amazing kids.”
campers commune with the fish at Audubon Aquarium
Camp Tiger gives the children the opportunity to experience things they might not otherwise, and the chance to stretch their wings.

Like camper Marilu Reyes at Audubon Aquarium. “I’m looking forward to like looking at all the fish and admiring them and like maybe touching the fish. I’m just scared for that though.”

To say that campers really look forward to Camp Tiger is a gross understatement. They wait for it all year long.

“One story that really stuck with me was hearing about how Camp Tiger helped parents realize their son could understand the concept of dates and time,” says Collette. “One day their son, who they'd previously thought was unable to fully understand a calendar, marked the start date for Camp Tiger. I also heard stories about how much Camp Tiger helps with the kids' social skills. Many parents get so excited to see their child come out of their shell, play with other kids and enjoy all of the activities.”
Parent Kimberlee Owens sent the students a message. “THANK y'all so much for giving Finn such a special week!”

Other parents echoed her sentiment.

“I cannot thank the students and the organizers of Camp Tiger enough. This has been an amazing week for Darius,” wrote Sabrina Marlbrough.

Added Summer Stevenson, “Thank you so much Camp Tiger for an amazing week !!!! Jude had a blast !!! Justin and Christopher are amazing!!”

Tracy Woodie wrote, “What an amazing week for my little man at Camp Tiger. He loved every second of it. Thank you so much to all involved in putting on this wonderful week and especially to Eric & Brennan who took sure great care of him.”

bubbles delight camper at Camp Tiger
Virtually every member of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine Class of 2021 played some part in making Camp Tiger possible, whether it was by making phone calls to get donations or by being a counselor at camp. Students from other medical school classes also helped out, as did more than 100 members of the incoming class who volunteered for the week as counselors.
campers have a blast in the bumper cars
Medical school staff and faculty who provided considerable support to this year’s Camp Tiger included Robyn White, Melanie Brown, Dr. Cathy Lazarus, Dr. Kyle Fulton, Dr. Jennifer Longwell, Dr. Sidney Longwell and Dr. Marshall Longwell.
“It’s amazing, not only for the campers. It’s also amazing to see our medical students’ transition into the role of counselor,” notes Dr. Cathy Lazarus, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Records at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and Camp Tiger Faculty Advisor. “They learn an awful lot about what it means to be a caring human being, and that translates into becoming caring physicians.”
“I learned and built upon more skills from this experience than I ever expected,” Collette reflects. “It is truly amazing to see so many people work together to make something like Camp Tiger possible. Making sure everything and everyone worked together well, was definitely nerve-wracking at times, but I learned how to trust myself and my decisions. Another great deal of learning came from listening to what my classmates, the campers, and the campers' parents had to say, and then making my decisions based upon what I was hearing, not just my own past experiences. It also seems impossible to not learn and build upon one’s humility when doing something such as Camp Tiger. Hearing the stories, seeing the impact, and watching the kids have the week of their lives, have shown me that we can never take life for granted and that we can all do something to give ourselves and others something to remember.”
Camp Tiger Director Jantzen Collette
Camp Tiger provided cherished memories that will be treasured forever, and not just by the campers who are now counting down the days to Camp Tiger 2019. So are the members of LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine Classes of 2021 and 2022. “We are looking forward to next year already!”

LSU Health New Orleans medical students Camp Tiger 2018