Nate Couture, Teen Board Member, shares his experience at Camp Celiac in Rhode Island.
My name is Nate and I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was a year old. Fortunately, since I was diagnosed at such a young age, I did not have the chance to experience foods and snacks like Oreo cookies or Gold Fish, so I do not feel like I “miss out” on it now. Luckily, for my parents they found this support group at Boston Children's Hospital.
According to them this was their life line. When I was younger it was hard to find places that could accommodate someone with a gluten free diet. Nowadays many restaurants will provide gluten free options or alternatives to their menu in some sort of way; whether or not we can always trust them is a different story for another time. Until I was 8 years old I rarely came across others with the same diagnosis. Around that time, my mother and I were looking online at different summer camps and we were lucky enough to stumble upon Camp Celiac. This camp is like no other. All of those feelings of isolation, like you're the only one going through this, were lessened or forgotten temporarily while there.
Aside from all the great activities at camp, knowing that everyone there is just like you is amazing. At Camp Celiac, located in North Scituate, Rhode Island, children with celiac disease, ages 8-16 years old, can be campers for 1 week each summer without worry (more so from their parents) that they will be “poisoned” or have to deal the hassle of camps that do not understand cross contamination.
The kids are separated into three different age groups from where they stay and participate in various activities. There are three sections: Woodside (8-10), Waterfront (11-13), and Retreat Center (14-16). One of my favorite parts of camp is the lake where we do swimming, boating, and fishing. Other fun activities at camp include the carnival, dance night, and skits. No matter what area you are staying in the entire camp meets up 3 times a day for meals. During each meal there is no need to ask “what is gluten free?” or “can you make this gluten free?” Everything there is just for you. It feels great to not worry about what you can eat or even have to ask if it is safe. It feels good to know that we are all basically the same and that there is not a negative connotation with the “disease”. More importantly than the food are the friendships that are built. We are able to socialize unlike at school or any social event. We can just relax and have fun because that's what camp all about.