Camp TAG Magic

The following is taken from a blog post I wrote for The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) blog.

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It wasn’t until I was 19 years old, when I was first immersed in a summer camp setting, that I encountered “camp magic” – something that I missed out on as a child. I seemed to overcompensate for this childhood loss by working at that camp for the next five consecutive summers. These five summers at camp helped shape the person I am today, and also helped lead me down the path to becoming a musician who writes music for children with food allergies

Camp magic does not involve card tricks or rabbits coming out of a hat. This magical experience occurs when you can go to camp as one person, and leave camp as another. This transformation happens because kids are given the chance to try and excel at new things, make new friends, and become more confident in themselves and their abilities.

I had the opportunity to revisit that “camp magic” twice this summer at FAAN’s inaugural Camp TAG (The Allergy Gang). I was so excited to be a part of it, as it seemed like such a natural fit to have a special camp for children with food allergies and their siblings. The premise of having children connect with others with food allergies in an environment where they can play, share, learn, and grow together, was amazing to see firsthand.

I wrote a theme song for the campers to sing at the end of the week for their parents. The song titled “Camp TAG” can be heard at www.kyledine.com/MP3s/camptagsong.mp3. I wrote it as a simple jingle that would be fun for the older campers, as well as easy enough for the younger ones to remember and sing. I was so happy to hear the children make up their own hand gestures while belting out some of my favorite lines:

Camp TAG, you’re it, Camp TAG you’re there,
Where friends and fun are everywhere.
Camp TAG, it’s me, Camp TAG, it’s you,
Where no one worries about food!
Camp TAG, We’re the allergy gang!

To hear the song come alive with a choir of up to 90 voices blew me away. I was humbled hearing so many children with food allergies singing passionately in unity as part of a “gang” — feeling included, supported, and normal. I did not know anyone else with allergies when I was growing up, which made it hard for me to feel normal and be comfortable admitting that I had allergies to others.

Once the final camp song was performed to a standing ovation of parents, the faces of all of the campers were beaming huge smiles. They really felt like they were part of something big that week. It was easy to see the “camp magic” had rubbed off as new friends hugged goodbye, the camp song was being sung in breakout groups heading to the parking lot, and the sentiment that “this week went by too fast!” and “I can’t wait for Camp TAG next year!” could be heard across the camp grounds.

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