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Mainstream Summer Camp For My 8 Year Old
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Hi everyone. I am the mum of a newly diagnosed 8 year old and we are slowly adjusting to her new diet (and still making some mistakes!).

Last summer, I sent both my daughters to a YMCA overnight camp for 2 weeks which they loved and would like to send them back. I called the camp and spoke to the head of the kitchen who reassured me that they could work with me to allow my daughter to attend camp. Basically, the hard work will be mine, as I will have to review the menu and provide food substitutions, any special cookware, and detailed food preparation/handling instructions.

I know this is a lot of work, but feel it would be good for my daughter to do the things she loves, if possible.

Am I being overly optimistic?

Has anyone done this successfully?

Any reassurance and/or personal experiences would be welcome.

Thanks!

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We did this last year, as has another friend of ours who is not celiac, but has several anaphylactic allergies. Most camps are ready to deal with this and we had great success. I met with the cook and camp director prior to my son's arrival so they had an actual person to deal with. At Scout camp, Boy Scouts work the summer in the kitchen so I also made a laminated sheet of guidelines about cross-contamination with my son's photo on it for them to post.

Substituting can be difficult. You'll need to get the camp menu at least a month ahead of time and then check any items that might be a problem. And then hope that the camp does not, in fact, change the menu, which often happens. I gotta tell you that there was virtually NOTHING my son could eat at camp, not even the oj for breakfast. (But he has an egg allergy and was not back to dairy yet) Which brought us to our solution (like you, I was determined to have him go if he wanted to)

Every morning, I drove the 25 minutes to camp and delivered lunch and supper. We actually bought the camp a new microwave and the cooking staff warmed up his food and plated it. I bought some Silk, which they kept in the fridge, marked for him. We took a cooler of "back up" food they kept in the walk-in freezer (but never needed to use). I did read the menu so his food was similar to what everyone else was eating. For breakfast he had a box of Gorilla munch, allergy-free bars, canned fruit, etc. that they brought to the table and he chose from.

He had a wonderful time, was not contaminated or sick even once. (We had packed some GoodNites just in case) The boys in the kitchen were wonderful and very nice to my son, nobody picked on him and none of his campmates cared (except when he had something they wanted to eat, too). If your camp is far, you might consider freezing/labelling meals and having them prep those. I would not take a chance with someone else cooking at a big summer camp -- it's just too hard to guarantee they won't make a mistake, but you will know better once you meet the staff. Our head cook had a niece with celiac and a child with anaphylactic peanut allergies, so they were already doing many good things (disinfecting tables, wearing gloves, etc.)

If you want more specific suggestions, feel free to email me directly. It is a very do-able thing, if you are willing to do all the work, assert yourself, and if your daughter is flexible about what she will eat and how she feels about her celiac. Children nowadays have lots of experience with people who can't eat certain things, and if you treat it matter-of-factly, she will learn to as well....

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