Jemison girl gets big sendoff to camp

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nine-year-old Makenzie Johnson suffers from juvenile arthritis, but, this week, she’ll be more concerned about canoeing and riding horses at Camp Grace in Mobile.

That site hosts Camp MASH, or Make Arthritis Stop Hurting, for children that suffer from the disease. Johnson was picked up Tuesday by the Camp MASH caravan under the Peach water tower at Interstate 65 Exit 212.

“The biggest advantage is she will meet other kids that are going through the same thing she is,” Makenzie’s mother, Rhonda Johnson, said. “She’s going to make life-long friends.

Chilton Medical Center Senior Connection, the Jemison High School cheerleaders and several people from the local arthritis committee held a pep rally for the caravan. Headley’s Big Peach allowed the group to use their property and donated peaches to the campers. Sonic and Dari Delite South donated hamburgers and hot dogs for the volunteers.

Makenzie, a student at Jemison Elementary School, was diagnosed with arthritis about one year ago but has shown symptoms for much longer.

“We’ve been looking for a diagnosis since she was 3,” her mother said. “It was a long journey to get there.”

Makenzie had unexplained swelling in her ankles, knees and other joints but has responded well to weekly shots of Methotrexate. In fact, there were no signs of active arthritis during her last visit to the doctor, on July 15.

The children will spend all week at the free camp and be joined by their parents and siblings on Friday and Saturday. The families will be given opportunities to learn more about arthritis and meet doctors that specialize in the field. Forgive Makenzie if that’s not her top priority.

“She’s more excited about the horseback riding,” Rhonda Johnson said.