The Celiac Teen Dad Guest Post

Next week is a big week for my son, Cameron. He has the chance to experience an opportunity that we didn’t know existed before last September. It’s something that if you would have told me about it a year ago, my ignorant, inner-jerk would have said “Um…why?” It’s one of the good things that has come about since his official diagnosis as a celiac; a silver-lining in his damaged intestines if you will. You see, next week he’s off to camp. But it’s not just any camp, its gluten-free camp.

camping

Yes, there’s a gluten-free camp. Actually, there are several every summer located all across the United States but the one he is going to is located in Wake Forest, North Carolina and sponsored by the Gluten Intolerance Group. Like I said, last year I had no idea that such a thing was even in demand, let alone knowledge that it even existed. By chance, I became familiar with this opportunity through the same avenues that I met King Gluten Free; through the land of social media (Can you imagine an actual land of social media? I think would make a great addition as a special themed area at Universal Studios or some other family fun park but I digress). Rudi’s, a company that specializes in manufacturing gluten-free breads and other products, held a Happy Camper contest back in March. I found out about this contest from their Twitter and Facebook pages. The only stipulation for entry was that the potential camper needed to write an essay of 100 words or less on why they were “special”. I spoke with Cam about this topic and, seeing that he’s the only kid in his middle school who has celiac disease, the idea to share how he is the sole-source of awareness in his school community made the essay fairly easy for him to write. We submitted the entry and found out a few weeks later that he would be receiving a scholarship to attend a week long camp of his choice.

So it’s off to Camp Kanata for what’s promising to be a hot and fun-filled week. While the camp is not 100% gluten free (there will be other campers attending who do not have to follow a special diet), there will be a dedicated chef to prepare and substitute meal items for those who suffer from gluten-related illnesses. And they’re pulling out all of the stops on the menu items; hamburgers, pulled pork BBQ, pizza, tacos and a final celebratory Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night. I still haven’t been able to get the smile off of Cam’s face when we talk about what he’s going to eat.

And, in a nutshell, that is how celiac has changed our lives. One year ago, Cam would have been excited and looking forward to all of the activities that the camp has to offer. He’s going to get to do things such as a down the river canoe trip, play pick-up basketball every day, and partake in multiple activities on the lake. But he smiles more when we talk about the menu and what he’s going to get to eat. For he knows he’s not going to have to think about it. He can be just like any other 13 year old boy and gorge himself with as much food as his heart desires. You can see that a burden has been lifted; the burden of worrying about eating safely away from home. It is a menace that stays with him every day, something that I don’t understand but I know wears at him mentally. And for one week, it’s not going to be there. Camp Kanata, the Gluten Intolerance Group, and Rudi’s have each given him an opportunity that we all wish for. The chance to just be a kid again.

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