Day 2 in a Series on Cross-Contamination and Food Allergies: Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka 2010 and 2012

This morning, I waved good bye to Matthew as he headed off with his fellow classmates for their Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka in beautiful Bracebridge, Ontario.

matthew off to camp muskoka by bus

All aboard!

matthew boarding the bus to camp muskoka

The teachers look super excited!

teachers on the camp muskoka trip

Yes, a few tears were shed…I know I was not alone!

The Grade 8 Graduation Trip is an exciting new adventure for the students to embark on…a perfect way to celebrate finishing their grade school years!

An experience of a lifetime!

I know it is Matthew’s first trip away from home without family…made a little more nerve racking when food allergies and asthma are involved. (peanut/tree nut)

I can assure you, I am feeling quite confident that all the safety measures have been put in place to ensure a successful Camp Muskoka adventure.

My eldest son, Michael (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,fish,shellfish,peanut/tree nuts,mustard and raspberry, asthma and eczema) enjoyed his Camp Muskoka adventure 2 years ago with his Grade 8 Graduation Class.

Many safety measures were established to prevent any cross-contamination with Michael’s food…our experience with Michael at Camp Muskoka gives me the confidence for Matthew’s trip.

Recap of Michael’s Camp Muskoka Graduation Trip of 2010

Camp Muskoka focuses on ‘good nutrition’ following Health Canada’s Food Guide and is a ‘Nut Safe’ environment following Anaphylaxis Canada’s Prevention Policy. (all staff are trained in the knowledge of food allergies, the prevention of cross-contamination, and the administration of an epi pen)

Camp Muskoka’s brochure states: “If your child has any special dietary needs (.i.e. vegetarian, diabetic, allergy specific) please detail these needs on your Camp Muskoka registration application and contact the Camp Muskoka Registrar to discuss arrangements.”

Planning Stages:

Stage 1: The year before the trip

Planning for Michael’s Graduation Trip started while he was in Grade 7. Anticipating his participation the following year, I discussed his food allergies, asthma and eczema with the Grade 8 teacher, Mr. G. (Mr. G. is currently Matthew’s Grade 8 teacher and was Michael’s. Matthew also had Mr. G. for Grade 7.)

Mr. G. is well versed in my boys’ food allergy emergency plans!

Mr. G. suggested that he would discuss Michael’s food allergies with the staff at Camp Muskoka on the 2009 Graduation Trip. Upon his return, I was assured that Camp Muskoka would be able to accomodate Michael’s mulitple food allergies. Sigh of relief!

Stage 2:  Parent Information Night

At the start of the Grade 8 school year, a representative from Camp Muskoka held a Parent Information Night. It was at this time, I bombarded the representative with questions and presented him with an outline of Michael’s multiple food allergies and the products that were considered allergen ‘safe’. I even attached a photo of Michael.

I was, as you can imagine, very concerned, worried, nervous…

Once again, I was reassured that Camp Muskoka would be able to meet Michael’s allergen needs. I was advised to contact the head chef, Michael to discuss the details.

Stage 2: Working with Camp Muskoka’s Head Chef Michael

My first contact with Chef Michael was by phone. I felt an initial personal first contact by phone necessary to establish good rapport. Very important when one wants to convey the seriousness of multiple food allergies, cross-contamination and the prevention of an anaphylactic reaction.

By phone, Chef Michael and I ironed out all the specifics:

-Michael would not eat buffet style
-Michael would have separate cutting boards, kitchen tools, pots, pans, plate and utensils kept separately. They would be washed and disinfected daily.
-Michael’s food would be prepared separately from the other food being prepared in the kitchen.
- Michael’s meal would be presented to him already plated.
-Chef Michael and I reviewed his menu plan discussing ingredient lists, food options and substitutions.
-It was agreed that due to Michael’s multiple food allergies, there were certain food items that Camp Muskoka would not be able to accomodate. Mainly all breads and baked goods. (Baked good contain some of Michael’s food allergens)

Chef Michael emailed me his menu plan for review. Between the two of us, we created a menu plan free of all Michael’s food allergens. A copy was made complete with emergency contact information, all Michael’s food allergens, all the food and drink products he was not to consume, and all the food I would be sending from home along with the food that Camp Muskoka would provide. Copies were given to all teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff for quick reference.

Food Sent From Home

-Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Bundt Cake baked in a 6 mold mini bundt pan for a substitute for muffins at breakfast and as a snack.
-Pure Maple Syrup for the Organic Pancakes (an allergen safe organic pancake mix with rice milk and an egg substitute was made for all the students on the trip for breakfast)
-allergen safe sliced ham for sandwiches
-Dairy,Egg,Soy,Sesame and Peanut/Tree Free Sub Buns for sandwiches and garlic bread
-Dairy,Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Wacky Cake
-allergen safe pasta and meat sauce
-Dairy,Egg,and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crisp

Michael’s 2010 Camp Muskoka Grade 8 Graduation Trip Experience

The beginning of June 2010, I waived good bye to Michael, two coolers full of food, 3 epi pens, puffers and his asthma/eczema medications as he headed for his once in a lifetime adventure to Camp Muskoka.

Yes, tears were definitely shed. Yes, a part of me was nervous.

Parents, as a rule, are not to have contact with their children on the trip…Mr. G. bent them, just a little, and called me both nights to let me know everything was going smoothly. Thanks Mr. G.!

Michael came home with many stories and experiences that will last a lifetime!

Michael’s Camp Muskoka’s Grade 8 Graduation Trip was a success due to a team effort…teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff working together with compassion, common sense, communication and an emergency plan. Priceless! I can’t thank you all enough!

Overview

I remind my kids all the time…read ingredient lists, never assume.

Accidents are called accidents because they are not planned. Thank goodness we can at least be prepared for accidents…because cross-contamination and injestion of food allergens is a reality.

That is why, as a parent with children with food allergies I teach my boys the Two Golden Rules: Always wash your hands and have your epi pen on hand before eating.

That is why, as parents with children with food allergies, we have emergency plans in place…that is why teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to administer epi pens…that is why students with life threatening food allergies need to carry epi pens and have back up epi pens available.

Being prepared means that when an accidental cross-contamination or injestion of a food allergy occurs…an anaphylactic reaction can be prevented.

Matthew 2012 Camp Muskoka Grade 8 Graduation Trip

Last week, I emailed Chef Michael and alerted him to Matthew’s peanut/tree nut allergy and his arrival today. He assured me that Camp Muskoka is still ‘Nut Safe’ and following Anaphylaxis Canada’s Policies. There is no need for me to send any food this time. Matthew will be travelling with his 3 epi pens, his puffers and all the gear needed for a winter adventure.

Not sure if I will be hearing from Mr. G. tonight for a recap on the day. I will try to be content in the knowledge that I have sent Matthew in capable hands.

In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting Matthew’s arrival home on Friday to hear all his exciting stories and experiences at Camp Muskoka.

Question: Has anyone else sent their child/children to Camp Muskoka with food allergies? What experiences have you had sending your child/children on overight trips with food allergies? Please share.

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10 thoughts on “Day 2 in a Series on Cross-Contamination and Food Allergies: Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka 2010 and 2012

  1. I just want say how much I enjoy reading your blog. It gives me some insight into the challenges to come, and I find there is little support for food allergies in Newfoundland. My son Dylan (dairy,eggs,sesame seeds, peanuts, and asthma) just began school this past September. We have only one minor contact allergic reaction and some asthma trouble thus far. This coming Monday his class will begin skating lessons for 5 weeks. This will mean that recess will be outside the school and the classes normal routine. I believe that It is when the normal routine is interupted that mistakes are made. I have made arrangements for either myself or my husband to be at the arena. I will also be carrying Dylan’s snack, out of fear of the snack bags getting mixed up (although his things are always clearly labeled). Any tips you may have for these school outings are appreciated. Keep up the great work:-)

    Dawn

    • Thank you Dawn! I know how nerve racking field trips can be…with a little planning, they are manageable. Talk to the teacher. Let them know your concerns and work together to come up with a plan. Being a part of the field trip is an added bonus. I have been very fortunate to be able to attend most of my boys’ field trips. When food is involved, hand washing and epi pens are a must! Even though I am there with an extra epi pen and my boys carry one on them, I always remind the teacher to bring the classroom extra along…it is written in the emergency plan and one never knows when I may not be able to make a field trip or an epi pen needs back up. At my boys’ school, starting in Grade 4, classes have 3 skating sessions spread out over 3 months. Snacks were never involved but I did attend them. I would help with the tying and untying of skates and put on a pair myself. It is a great time to get to know the teachers, parents and students and they to know a bit about you and your son. Above all…have fun! That is what field trips are all about. Hope that helps! Susan H.

    • It is my hope that the experiences that I have encountered with my family, will help to benefit those families who are living with mulitiple food allergies, eczema and asthma. Each journey is unique…the tools to navigate remain the same…hope, positive thinking, compassion, common sense, communication and determination are just some of them. I have seen many positive changes regarding food allergies in our 15 year journey: better ingredient labelling, allergen warnings on products, a magazine dedicated to allergies (Allergic Living),companies dedicated to allergen free products (Enjoy Life, Guardian Angel) and Sabrina’s Law to protect our children in schools. Imagine what another 15 years could bring!

  2. Susan you are such a wonderful mom! You really inspireme to “live & let live!” :) Hope he as a blast!! Update when he’s home with all his great stories!

  3. Susan, how brave are you! Well done! Both your having great camping experiences are due to your diligence in getting it right.

    You are so right about washing hands, this simple action can save so much uunnecessary stress. My son is 41/2 and he knows to wash his hands before every meal (and after too) and especially when he is at school.

    I bet you were relieved when they came home, but it is such a big milestone for all of you – hope you celebrated this big win! Look forward to hearing more – it gives me some hope when my son has to go on camp.
    Charmaine
    http://www.intrepidallergymum.com

    • Hi Charmaine! Thanks for stopping by! To get where we are today has taken alot of baby steps, trial and error and a great deal of patience! It has not been an easy road to travel. I have had many stressful days…but when it comes right down to it, I love my boys. I am trying very hard to ‘step out of our box’ and broaden their experiences. Places like Camp Muskoka and Neb’s Fun World make that possible. I am sure there are many more out there yet for us to discover.

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