We just returned from a fabulous weekend away in the Pocono Mountains! We attended the NJY Camp Gluten Free Family Camp Weekend. It was a relaxing, beautiful, fun-filled weekend . . . all GLUTEN-FREE!
Go on vacation and not have to bring all of our gluten-free foods with us?!?!
The kids will LOVE it! This was my first thought as I talked with Anne, the Assistant Executive Director from the NJ Y Camp, last year at the Gluten-Free Festival in Stamford, CT. As parents caring for children with food allergies, we cannot help but worry whenever you go to a new location with your family. Knowing that all the food is safe, as well as safely prepared, not cross-contaminated, is always a present thought in our minds. This was a camp that had the gluten-free portion covered, being a GIG certified kosher kitchen, ran in partnership with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University . The whole weekend was gluten-free so there would not be any cross-contamination to worry about at all. SCORE!
All gluten-free? Yes, they cook and serve it all for you in the dining hall. There is no cooking, well, roasting marshmallows if that counts! A weekend free of cooking – always nice to have a break and know we are safe to eat. It was especially nice to not have to remind the counselors taking the kids to all their fun activities, that they couldn’t eat or drink anything that contained gluten. It was already covered! One less worry – a little more relaxing!
The Family dinners were quite abundant with many options. Being corn-free on top of gluten-free, caused little fuss but the kitchen manager, Sheriel, was absolutely thoughtful and was able to help me quite a bit. I had brought some back-ups for myself, just in case, as most people who live with allergies do on a regular basis. But, I will say, that I didn’t bring anywhere as much as we usually do. Of course, I was worried about this at first, but overall I did not need to as it all worked out fine.
Each family stayed in their own cabin. It was your typical summer camp cabin (actually brought back memories from Girl Scout Camp I once attended!). We had 10 bunk beds, hard to pick which one to sleep in, and a working bathroom – not really roughing it too much! Ha
After getting over the shock and excitement of the food, I knew my children would love the activities that were offered. This was a summer camp with all the fun activities you could think of included: swimming, boating, jet ski rides, high and low ropes courses, archery, zip line, nature walks, arts & crafts classes, yoga by the lake, live shows, and of course a campfire for roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.
Being our first big family camping experience, we tried many of the options. The weather was prefect, alternating between chilly and warm, sunny and cloudy, we couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. We had one downpour in the middle of the afternoon ice cream party. Yet, as we all grabbed our belongings and ran for the cabins, it just added a bit of excitement – and then laughter as we entered the cabin drenched with rainwater. Fun memory actually.
They had so much available for the families to participate in over the weekend. We enjoyed so much of it! Freddie and Craig loved the high ropes, Freddie loved the zip line. Archery was favored by Alex – look out Katniss! Sammy had a great time participating with the counselors making crafts, reading activities and a nature walk. He proudly showed us his “Maple Syrup leaves” he found in the forest! I really enjoyed the Nature Walk, thanks to Sue and her wonderful knowledge of the plants, and the yoga by the lake. Alex and I wanted to go back and try the zip line, but we were so busy with everything else we ran out of time. (Next time!)
Being gluten-free, having so much fun with the activities and just enjoying nature all weekend were fabulous. I also loved that my children were able to see that there are many people, from all over, who go through life with Celiac Disease, avoiding gluten, just like they do. I think that is a true point to show your family that they are not alone in this gluten-free journey! One other benefit to the weekend – we met some wonderful people, from all over. One very sweet family, who we enjoyed hanging out with, actually live only a few towns away from us! The directors, Jason and Anne, as well as many counselors were quite outgoing, informative and helpful! The counselors were all very enthusiastic with the kids. All so fun!