Camp Emerson – An Extraordinary “Allergy Aware” Summer Camp

 

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I had a great childhood. I played baseball, rode bikes with friends, played hockey on the pond and played maybe one too many video games! However, there was one common connection to everything I did – I was close to home.

With all of my food allergies, summer camp was only something I heard about through movies. Although my summers were great, they were generally confined to an area that circled around a particular epicenter – my kitchen.

This is why I am THRILLED to hear of places like Camp Emerson in Massachusetts.  As a proclaimed “Food Allergy Specialist”, they pride themselves in providing a worry-free experience for campers and parents alike.

What’s really impressive is that they “walk the walk” too…and then some with incredible attention to details. Here are some of the things that impressed me most about Camp Emerson that could give peace of mind to prospective parents:

The Food Situation

  • They are peanut, tree nut, shellfish and sesame free.
  • They have successfully supported children with up to 9 anaphylactic allergies.

The Kitchen Situation

  • A team of Registered Dietitians prepare the menu with you prior to camp.
  • Parents are able to review the menu in advance and read all labels.
  • They have dedicated equipment and kitchen area to avoid cross-contamination.

 The Staff Situation

  • All staff are trained on anaphylaxis emergency procedures (including EpiPen training)
  • There is on-site medical staff (pediatrician, nurses) trained in allergies.
  • The directors have food allergies and truly “get it”.

I can go on, but I recommend you take a look at their brochure all about campers with allergies: http://www.campemerson.com/future_families/food_allergy_specialist.

It wasn’t until college that I entered the summer camp world as a staff member at a camp in Ontario. It was an incredible experience that kept me coming back – 5 summers in total! It opened my eyes to the value of camp and the countless benefits it provides children. Camp Emerson has generously supported my tour and DVD as a sponsor, and I am thrilled to endorse them, as I believe they are trailblazers setting gold standards for how camps can accommodate allergic campers. They share my belief that food allergies shouldn’t be a barrier for summer camp.

I know their spaces are filling up fast, but here are more details for this summer:

Camp Sessions:

  • 6 weeks – Sunday, June 28 – Saturday, August 8, 2015
  • 4 weeks – Sunday, June 28 – Saturday, July 25, 2015
  • 2 weeks – Sunday, July 26 – Saturday, August 8, 2015

For more information, visit http://www.campemerson.com, or pick up the phone can call:

Sue Lein, Owner & Camp Director (she’s so friendly and fantastic!)

directors@campemerson.com
800-782-3395
203-894-9663

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Canoe Tripping with Food Allergies

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My absolute favourite thing to do in the summer is to go on canoe trips! I admit that I am Canadian to the core –  I love hockey, maple syrup, and have spent most of my summers either in a canoe or with a canoe on my head. However, the thing that draws me in every summer is nature. Going into the backcountry lets me fully check-out of the real-world craziness and turn off my phone and email for days on end. It makes me get back to basics and appreciate how lucky I am in life. I always end up leaving completely refreshed, not to mention sore!!

My nifty canoe hat

My nifty canoe hat

Last week I went on a quick 3-day trip with my wife and a few friends. I always volunteer early on with my canoe trips to take on the meal planning as I want to ensure everything is safe for me – and delicious for all.

Canoe Trips and Meals

With car camping, you have the luxury of bringing lots of food, coolers, and sometimes having access to electricity. With backcountry camping, you must be much more cognizant of how much your food weighs since you will be lifting it on portages, and paddling it around lake after lake.

I usually bring safe hot dogs for the first night and cook them right over the fire. I freeze them ahead of time so they thaw and are still cold by the time we eat them. For a snack afterwards, roasted marshmallows of course!

For breakfast on this trip, bagels with pre-cooked bacon and cheese hit the spot! I topped with Sunbutter too which was a hit with everybody else. One even thought it tasted like a gourmet peanut butter!

Lunches consisted of wraps with beans and fresh peppers as well as cheese and crackers. Our other dinner was gluten-free pasta which was a good hearty meal to refuel after a long day of paddling.

At the end of each day, we hung up our food in a bear hang up on a tree branch to make sure we kept our food to ourselves!

Chef Kyle in his rustic camping kitchen!

Chef Kyle in his rustic camping kitchen!

Cooking Accessories

I own a little camp stove that hooks up to a small butane canister. It’s quick and easy to make hot meals and my morning cappuccino (allergy-safe powder mix). I also make sure that I have my own cutlery set. Even though everything is allergy safe, I’m always conscious of cross-contamination with gluten since my wife has celiac disease. I bring a medium sized pot and pan with me which I wash thoroughly with lake water after each meal. I also have a water pump and drink my water out of the lake with it. I sometimes use juice crystals, but the lake water by itself is surprisingly good.

Kyle eating his peanut free gorp mix.

Kyle eating his peanut free gorp mix. Also trying to find where on earth he is with a trusty map.

What about the GORP?

GORP stands for “Good ol’ Raisins and Peanuts” and is another word for trail mix. It goes without saying that this is usually the biggest problem for those with allergies out in the bush. I make sure to communicate with everyone that I’m tripping with about packing a nut and peanut free trail mix. I pack mine full of raisins, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, dried strawberries and dried cranberries. It’s delicious!! A perfect snack after a long portage holding a canoe above your head.

Getting my marshmallow stick ready

Getting my marshmallow stick ready

What about Keeping your Epi Safe?

I pack my Allerjects in a waterproof sack along with my wallet and car keys. I treat this bag like a bag of gold on the trip. It’s never out in direct sunlight and is always packed securely. I have never noticed my epinephrine being too hot from the sun, or too cold (luckily I haven’t tipped my canoe and got this bag wet!). You can get these bags at your local camping store and are great for any summer activities around the water.

Keeping my Allerject auto-injector safe in a waterproof sack.

Keeping my Allerject auto-injector safe in a waterproof sack.

Try Camping with Allergies!

Never backcountry camped before? I highly recommend it! Be sure to do your research beforehand and plan a trip that is an easy first step into the wilderness. Parks usually have helpful people that are willing to recommend beginner friendly routes and trips that appeal to families. Biggest tip is to triple check all of your food you pack out before you go.

It’s great to get out into the bush, but after all of the mosquito bites and sore joints, it’s nice to get back and dream of my next trip!

And this is what makes it all worth while. What a view.

And this is what makes it all worth while. What a view.

My dashboard cam...

My dashboard cam…