An Allergy Mom Visits Camp Wingate*Kirkland
By: Heather Mehra of the No Biggie Bunch
As we’re now well through back-to-school and the temperature is dropping, I’m keeping warm by remembering great events of the summer. One I wanted to share with you was my tour of Camp W*K . Thanks to It’s an Itchy Little World, my introduction to Camp W*K came by way of my connection with food allergies as one of the authors of The No Biggie Bunch series of children’s books. You invited The No Biggie Bunch to participate in the Camp W*K giveaway contest last spring, and so I put a visit to the camp on the top of my summer Must Do list.
I arrived at a camp in full swing this past August and was first met by Ken. He was immediately warm and friendly, even as he carried a large, heavy crate out of the office. He stopped to introduce himself and explain that he was on his way to a local shelter to deliver what I would call ‘camp contraband.’ You see, care packages, while sent with the best intentions, veritable lifelines from families to campers during their time apart, can often contain hidden dangers to those with life-threatening food allergies. Camp W*K takes the extra precaution of checking all care packages for safety before distribution to campers. Any items that contain or may be contaminated with peanuts are removed long before they could make their way to a bunk. Ken’s crate contained the most recent booty.
With the contraband safely en route to a place it would serve well, I met Sandy Rubenstein, who, with husband Will, owns and directs Camp W*K. Sandy, herself, graciously took me on a full tour which began with the dining hall. We were lucky to catch Chef Tom still in his kitchen, having just finished serving lunch.
Camp W*K has been nut free since 2006. Under the watchful eye and deep appreciation for safe, healthy, and delicious meals, Chef Tom takes care to accommodate all of the food allergies and sensitivities of campers who enter his hall. Without hesitation he rattled off many of the yummy dishes he creates, while at the same time pointing out all of the procedures he has in place to ensure the safety of his diners. Even with every precaution taken, he pointed out that within arms reach was the stock epinephrine.
Chef Tom knew the names of all the children with allergies and which allergies they had. I could see that in addition to keeping campers safe and well-fed, he cared about making the dining experience of those with food restrictions inclusive and enjoyable. He made his task seem like, no biggie, even though I know it really is a big deal.
The common connection with food allergies brought me to Camp W*K, so I’ve shared a glimpse of what I learned of their food allergy practices. Without question, Sandy and Will have fostered an inclusive, friendly, co-ed camping community in a beautiful spot on Cape Cod. Camp W*K clearly offers so much in its nurturing and empowering environment. The thoughtful and comprehensive approach the staff takes to every aspect, from food to friends, from physical to emotional well-being, makes it a camp where all kids, including food allergy kids, can feel safe so they can use their energy to focus on adventure, art, independence, friends, swimming, baseball, exploration, ukulele…being kids.
The writing contest you hosted, along with Camp W*K, was designed to provide one lucky food allergy kid with an unforgettable overnight camping opportunity. I think every camper at W*K has an unforgettable experience!
Bio: Heather Mehra is a stay-at-home mom of three No Biggie Bunch inspirations. She and her kids have a great time navigating multiple food allergies and festivities in their own daily adventures. The smart and whimsical stories of The No Biggie Bunch teach kids when they’re prepared with safe snacks and a ready response, the social challenges of food allergies are “No Biggie”! Follow the No Biggie Bunch on Facebook and Twitter.