Recently, I was asked to be a speaker at an event hosted by the New England Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The goal of this gathering was to help the parents of children with food allergies figure out if summer camp was even a possibility for their children. As a director of an overnight camp in NH that has welcomed children with severe food allergies for more than a decade I was pleased and proud to be a part of this.
As I fielded questions from the audience it became clear that there were two main worries on the minds of the many parents in the room:
1) How do I go about determining if a particular summer camp is safe for my child with food allergies?
2) And on a more fundamental level, are there camps in New England that truly want campers with life-threatening food allergies?”
As we went around the room I discovered that almost every parent had been told by at least one camp that their child’s food safety needs could not and would not be met for this coming summer. It saddens me that there are still many overnight camps that shy away from making the reasonable accommodations necessary to make their community safe for people with allergies and intolerances. When Kenwood and Evergreen set out on this course many years ago we knew it would involve some changes to our food systems and a whole lot of ongoing education, but we also knew that doing so would make our community available to some pretty fantastic kids (and staff). I know that we are not alone in believing that this is the right thing to do. My co-speaker at this event, Will Rubenstein, is the director of a wonderful camp on Camp Cod called Wingate-Kirkland. Though different in session length and programming structure, Wingate-Kirkland also believes that it is important to create a safe environment for kids with food allergies. I know that there are other camps out there like us, and I applaud them all!