It all started with a little boy crying. When it comes to summer camp, a child crying is never a good sign.
The boy’s name was Miles. His older brothers had been coming to camp for a couple years, and next year he would be old enough to come to. When Camp Director Jason Sebell asked him what was wrong, Miles said that even though he would be old enough next year, he still wouldn’t be able to come to summer camp, because he had a severe peanut allergy. Even being close by when other campers opened a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or enjoyed a peanut butter cookie could kill him.
That started Camps Kenwood and Evergreen on a mission. As Jason said “why would we not make a small accommodation so that a child can participate.”
This all happened about 12 years ago and started a revolution at the camp. While they may think what they are doing is small, they now can give a safe and fun environment to children with a wide range of allergies. When they first got started with the changes they were one of the few nut free camps in the North East. Then their arts and crafts director was diagnosed as Celiac, so they became the only camp to safely serve gluten free meals at the time.
Now, they have one Chef in the kitchen whose sole job it is to prepare food for all the children with food allergies. No packaged food comes in from outside the camp, and they focus on creating healthy meals for all the campers. As much as possible they follow the farm to table method, providing an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
No detail of the camping experience is overlooked, with safe snacks for movie night, and even on the trail when completing wilderness exploration. In the entire time they have been catering to the needs of food allergic kids, they have not had to use an EpiPen, or had an anaphylactic reaction – a testament to the effectiveness of their approach.
They have a camp wide commitment to continual improvement and communication. As the food allergy world changes and evolves, so does the camp. Never settling for “good enough,” they review their policies each year and make sure every single staff member is trained to know how to provide a safe environment for food allergic children.
But don’t worry, this is not a boring camp that also happens to be allergy friendly. The brother and sister camps have a water slide, arts and crafts, team sports, water activities, rock climbing and a ropes course, special activities, and more. This is a camp where a kid can really let loose and enjoy being a child without fear. As Jason says, “you are more than your allergy.” You can find out more about this New Hampshire camp on their website.
This is part of a series of posts featuring allergy friendly summer camp opportunities. If you have a camp we should know about, please share in the comments below!