I asked my almost 11 year old her favorite thing about Camp TAG. Her response,
“I feel free!”
She feels free.
What a tremendous gift, the gift of freedom.
My 13 year old with EOE says there are no questions as to why she can’t eat certain foods.
What a relief!
For one week of their lives, they are surrounded by children who speak the same food allergy language. They don’t have to explain themselves, or why they do all of the little things they do to keep themselves safe.
They’re all doing these things, and if they’re not, the teen counselors are gently reminding them of their importance.
Those that have anaphylactic food allergies and/ or asthma carry their epinephrine auto injectors & medicine bags, everywhere.
They wash their hands with wet wipes at the start of the day, and again before and after eating.
They do not share their food, drinks or utensils. They give each other space and respect when eating.
They read their food labels and are THRILLED to see allergy friendly products, like Enjoy Life, given out for snack time.
Their non allergic siblings experience other families living this food restricted life too, always finding ways to help others, far beyond their own needs. They see how fierce they are as protectors, as the ones who understand the importance of keeping their brothers, sisters and friends with food allergies safe and included in life’s good times.
They learn to educate. They find their voice.
They look out for each other. They stay in touch all year long, celebrating successes and lending a shoulder to lean on during difficult times, the times only someone living this food allergy life understands.
They motivate each other to become leaders in their own communities. They learn the importance of taking good care of themselves, knowing they are not alone.
What an empowering experience.
Year after year, they return. Growing from camper to counselor, from preschooler to teen to young adult, welcoming new campers while reuniting with their old friends.
For my girls, this is the highlight of the summer, The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team’s Camp TAG. The brainchild of FAACT’s CEO, Eleanor Garrow-Holding.
They are dropped off at 9AM, and picked up at 3:30PM. The giggles and stories on the car ride home are all about their day, and not about their food allergies.
When we meet up for a meal or a water ice, they all pause and ask the same questions. They draw strength and comfort from one another, finally witnessing others, “walk this walk and talk this talk.”
For once, they are not alone.
Camp TAG is freedom, a freedom I am so glad my girls get to experience together.