Camp Walden Is Nut-Aware
A Special Note from One Parent to Another…
Dear Fellow Parents,
My child is one of many young children who live with a life threatening allergy to peanut and tree nut proteins. An exposure to any food products containing these proteins may result in an anaphylactic reaction. As you probably already know, an anaphylactic reaction is an allergic reaction so severe that it can cause death. Other symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include facial swelling, hives, rashes, difficulty breathing, choking, nausea and loss of consciousness, to name a few (there are more).
Recently, my son was involved in an incident where he was participating with other children in a communal play area when a playmate accidentally scratched him on the forehead. This resulted in an open cut that was bleeding. Approximately 10 minutes later, my son became noticeably uncomfortable and was complaining that his face was itchy. I saw that on the side of his face where he had been scratched, he was breaking out in hives and his eye and cheek had become swollen. After a brief consultation with the parent of the other child, I learned that the child had eaten a peanut butter sandwich an hour earlier. The child had peanut butter under his fingernails, and my son ingested the peanut proteins through his open wound and developed a severe allergic reaction. He was immediately taken to the hospital for treatment.
We all want to protect our children. As parents we consistently strive to keep them safe from all harm, happy and content in their world, participating in fun and worthwhile activities, and above all, healthy. We are attentive to the dangers lurking in a society that we cannot always predict. But for me and other parents of allergic children, those dangers are not always obvious ones.
My family appreciates the increased understanding being shown by other families across Canada. This is particularly true at camp, where Peanut Butter and other products have been a staple for so many years. There is a growing incidence of anaphylactic children and it may be difficult to imagine how it would feel if such an allergy were developed by someone in your family. For anaphylactic children, any exposure to the allergens may prove fatal and as a parent of an otherwise “normal” child, it is so difficult for me to safeguard that which is most precious, my child’s life, without the support of our community. On behalf of my child and the rest of my family, I thank you for caring,
A concerned parent
For further information about this kind of allergy and others, you can read the Anaphylaxis Network of Canada Website at www.anaphylaxis.ca
We have learned that one of the greatest things that attract campers to return to Walden each year is the sense of community and inclusion at camp. Every summer, Camp Walden accepts campers with a variety of personalities, backgrounds, and needs. As we are sure you know, Walden has become a place that is more comfortable for campers that deal with this allergy. We have done a considerable amount of research and consultation speaking with campers, families, staff, other camp directors, and our Camp Association. We have learned that our community believes that the benefits of being able to include these campers into an anxiety reduced environment outweigh the deficits associated with attempting to eliminate peanuts from camp. Walden has always attempted to order foods that are “peanut aware”. In an effort to heighten this awareness:
Our Dining Hall is a Nut Aware Space. This means that peanut butter will not be available at camp and no outside foods are permitted to be brought into the Dining Hall (including soups, cereals, sandwiches, etc.). Foods served by our Dining Hall will not contain any nut products in the ingredients, however some items do use the phrases like “may contain nuts” or “cooked in a facility that also manufactures nuts”. Items most commonly exposed to “cross contamination” in the manufacturing process i.e. chocolate bars, ice cream, granola bars, etc. are labelled nut free. Dozens of campers and staff have enjoyed every item on our menu without a single nut-allergic reaction for the 8 summers that this policy has been in place.
We insist that parents only send Nut Aware foods as part of the allowed shopping bag of food brought up at the beginning of camp and on Visitor’s Day. That is to say that all food sent up to camp must not have any nut products in the ingredients. Those products that are labelled as “Safe to Share” should be preferred over those that use language like “may contain traces of nuts”. We recognize that finding foods that are completely “nut free” is becoming increasingly difficult; however, your added sensitivity when doing camp shopping will have a direct impact on the comfort of our campers and staff that live with this allergy.
Although peanut butter is often thought of as a camp “staple”, we will continue to be committed to providing new and various meal and snack food options that are healthy and “camper friendly”. Bonnie and her team continue to research new opportunities for nutritious foods to complement our Walden menu. In addition to our regular three meals, campers can look forward to great evening snacks, lots of fruit and vegetable selections, and access to juice and water all around camp!