Where I live, summer camps are all the rage and most of the children I know take part in them each year. Whether they are sleep away camps, private day camps, sports, drama, art or educational camps, all of these camps fill the summer with planned activities and time for our kids away from home to spend with friends, both old and new.
For most parents of children with food allergies, this common summer activity is something that many of us avoid and yet crave for our children, myself included. As much as I want my child to spread his wings a little, gain some independence and have a TON of fun while doing it, the idea of sending him into an unknown environment, with strangers, for an extended period of time, was very unlikely.
That was until THIS summer.
We recently returned from a week of Family Camp in Branson, MO and it was AMAZING! This was the first year that an allergy menu was offered and although it did cost a little extra, I was more than happy to pay for that, especially since it meant I didn’t have to bring a cooler full of foods and give him sandwiches 3x a day.
For our family, we felt that this would be the closest experience he would have to sleep away camp but we would be able to do it with him. In fact, our other 2 children came and everyone ranked it their favorite, even over a well-known theme park with a certain little Mouse! Can you believe that?
We had busy mornings after breakfast for kid and/or adult activities, then back together for a good lunch before the activities such as swimming, boating, putt-putt golfing, rope course climbing, bluff jumping, or simply relaxing before dinner and the dance parties began.
I was able to watch my little guy experience camp as I had always wished. He made new friend, ate a ton, had the freedom to go & do what he wanted (as long as his Epi was with him), stayed up REALLY late, but best of all, he laughed and smiled a lot.
Although this was NOT a food allergy camp, it did show that a shift is slowly moving towards accommodating children with food allergies. Welcoming them, including them, educating themselves on safety procedures and precautions, creating a custom meal plan, and assigning a special counselor and kitchen staff to them was just a few of the things we experienced.
If you dream of sending you child to camp, there is HOPE and there are laws that support the inclusion of children with food allergies. For more information on that, please check out The Allergy Law Project.