Imagine being part of a community that’s 100% gluten free. You’d never have to ask about ingredients or quietly slide your plate aside when someone bites into an explosive baguette. The shower of crumbs raining onto your plate would be gluten free, and you could even break off a piece of the bread yourself.
For two weeks such a gathering exists at a summer camp in the rolling hills just outside of Livermore, Ca. Camp Celiac hosts over 200 children aged 9-17 who’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease. Counselors and campers who all adhere to the gluten free diet descend from around the country for this unique experience where mealtime is anxiety free and every food is safe. “All year our campers have to sit back and watch their peers eat foods that to our campers are poison. For this one week we want to treat our kids like princes and princesses; allow them to fully engage in everything without once having to think, is this gluten free?” Jacqueline Corley and her husband Doug in partnership with the Taylor Family Foundation and YMCA do an outstanding job organizing Camp Celiac on the grounds of Camp Arroyo each year. With activities ranging from camp-wide scavenger hunts and soccer games to art projects, archery lessons and zip-lining, kids have little time to worry about the nuances of being gluten intolerant. Instead campers spend every minute engaging with new friends and immersing themselves in the beautiful setting of Camp Arroyo.
In the mess hall, picture every meal you’ve longed for since going gluten free: lasagna, pizza, mac n’ cheese, ravioli, quesadillas, chicken noodle soup, apple pie, pancakes, french toast… pure comfort food.
If campers are still hungry after three grilled cheese sandwiches, breaded chicken tenders and unlimited access to a salad bar, they can help themselves to a chocolate brownie with thick vanilla icing. Sometimes, the kitchen really gets creative. One lunch hour ended in a build your own cupcake party. Each table was served a dozen red velvet cupcakes (courtesy of Miglet’s Bakery) with accompanying bowls of cream cheese frosting and sprinkles. Campers and counselors were in heaven.
Those of us adhering to a gluten free lifestyle share a close bond. For me, this connection was largely unrealized until volunteering as a counselor at Camp Celiac where friendships are formed almost instantaneously as campers and counselors identify with every joy and pitfall of living gluten free. Attending camp really brought about a fresh outlook on having a significant dietary restriction and its wonderful to see how quickly kids gained confidence as they became part of this close-knit community.
See my previous post for more info here!