Doc devotes time to patients at summer camp and beyond

Dr. Chelly Dykes (left) volunteers to lead the medical team at Camp Oasis for kids like Emma Pelinsky with Crohn's and colitis diagnoses.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Dr. Chelly Dykes (left) volunteers to lead the medical team at Camp Oasis for kids like Emma Pelinsky with Crohn's and colitis diagnoses.

As a pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Chelly Dykes works exclusively with children afflicted with GI disorders. A poignant part of her job is seeing kids struggle with the stress of Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.

“These are the most common chronic conditions; about one in 100 have them,” she said. “But they are fairly silent diseases. Some people never know they have them, so patients don’t look different, but they often feel bad.”

Helping kids handle the diseases has driven Dykes to become an active supporter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Since beginning her practice in Ohio and continuing since moving to Dunwoody six years ago, she’s been involved with fundraising and educational events. She’s also volunteered as the medical director at Camp Oasis, a getaway in Winder for diagnosed kids.

“Camp Oasis is such a big deal because kids are surrounded by other kids who walk in their shoes,” she said. “It’s often hard for others to understand why you’re absent or have to have an infusion, and that impacts your mental health. I see more depression in kids with chronic illnesses.”

The camp provides kids with traditional summer activities such as horseback riding and hiking. About 200 youngsters from the Southeast usually attend, many with scholarships from the foundation. While having fun, they also learn about healthy eating and stress management, as well as some serious lessons.

“We recently had several middle schoolers who have to take injectable medicines learn how to give themselves shots for the first time,” she said. “Their parents’ jaws dropped when we told them. Just seeing other kids doing it is a positive moment that offers a lot of support.”

Being at the camp has perks for Dykes as well. “It’s a recharge moment for me, too. I can see happy, healthy kids rather than ones who need attention in my office.”

Also outside of the office, Dykes has created a webinar where new patients can listen, learn and ask questions outside the stress of a medical appointment. She also leads ImproveCareNow, a national collaboration that collects and shares info on Crohn’s and colitis.

“In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a handful of new medicines approved for pediatrics, but it’s much fewer than for adults,” she said. “I also have a special interest in making sure kids can communicate and manage their symptoms as they grow and develop. We’re helping them find the right tools and strategies as they transition to taking care of themselves and go on to college or start working. And the health care system is not easy to navigate; a lot of my work is designed to improve the delivery of care to patients.”

Dykes’ efforts for her young patients have earned her the honor of Premier Pediatric Healthcare Professional from the foundation’s Georgia chapter. She’ll receive the award at the fall Torch Gala, the chapter’s main fundraiser.

More information about the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation is online at

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