As many of my frequent readers know, I have been advocating the Celiac lifestyle for the past five months; bringing it to the attention of those that I am lucky enough to have listen to me. For this post, though, I felt that it was time for me to jump off of the gluten-free soap box. A time for me to step back from being a voice in the battle against cross-contamination in restaurants. Yes, it is time for me to do what the majority of people use social media for; to brag about my kids. I looked at my Facebook page last weekend and, if you remove all of the advertisements that are being forced upon us, I would take a guess that at least half of the posts from my friends involved their children. From kids playing softball to kids making travel teams to kids having first communion, our society is putting out a lot of propaganda concerning our offspring. And rightfully so. We’re proud of what our kids do and want to provide them everything that we can to help them succeed later in their lives when we’re not going to be there for them on a daily basis. Thinking of Cam’s future is one of the reasons that I have become passionate about advocating and spreading the word about his condition. But there’s another time for that. As I stated, I’m writing today as a proud parent.
Cam is our “quiet” kid. He’s very meticulous in thinking things through before taking action. Sometimes he requires a little push to get things going but once he gets that momentum, he can take on just about any challenge that we present to him. So, when I read a post on Twitter that Rudi’s Gluten Free bakery was sponsoring a “Happy Camper” contest, I gave Cam a nudge. At various summer camp sites throughout the country, there are gluten-free weeks where chefs bring in the food on a daily basis and ensure that the meals are safe for the campers with this dietary need. Rudi’s was giving away 10 scholarships in the United States for gluten free and Celiac kids to attend one of these camps. The only rule of entry was for the camper to compose an essay no longer than 100 words on the topic “Why Am I Special?” When I first read about these gluten-free camps, I immediately thought about what a great opportunity this would be for Cam to meet other kids who are going through the same thing that he is. He loves to go camping and here would be a place where he could do something that he enjoys and not have to worry about his food for an entire week. My wife and I had looked into these camps before we knew about the Rudi’s contest so the opportunity to try for a scholarship was too good to pass up. But, the decision to enter was not up to us. It was up to Cam. He would be the one who would have to feel comfortable in an environment away from the “safe foods” at home. He would be the one going to a place where he would need to interact and “live with” unknown kids for an entire week. I had my reservations about whether or not he would pursue this chance. Much to our delight, our meticulous kid didn’t even think twice about it.
But then there was the essay. Could you address yourself and describe “Why Am I Special” in 100 words or less? Readers of my 1,000+ word blogs know that I couldn’t do it. How do you make yourself stand out in a space limited to a paragraph? I sat down with Cam and asked him to throw out some ideas on what he could write about. What he came up with was what made him unique; his Celiac Disease. Being the only person in his school with Celiac made him special among his peer group; the one who could make his friends (and his teachers) more aware of this auto-immune response that affects 3 million people in the United States. He used this position of a role model as the template for his essay. After submitting the essay through the Rudi’s Facebook page, I let Cam know how proud I was of him. He was putting himself out there, wanting to share his story and embracing what has become such a major part of his every day life. He’s always been special to my wife and I and now he was showing others why we feel that way. In hindsight, when we received an e-mail from Rudi’s four weeks later, I shouldn’t have been as surprised.
Just yesterday, I finished submitting all of the forms for Cam’s week long trip to Camp Kanata in Wake, North Carolina. When he won, we had a choice of five camps that he could attend. When he saw that the Gluten Intolerance Group’s sponsored week at Camp Kanata was located in North Carolina, the choices were narrowed to one. We often vacation in Carolina and we have family there so him wanting to go to Kanata was almost a given. He’ll be there at the end of the summer and he’s already counting down the days. If his experience is as wonderful as my conversations have been with the Rudi’s representatives and the staff at Camp Kanata, he is in for what will be a special life memory. Basketball courts, fishing, swimming, canoeing…you name it and it’s there. No electronics, no worries about the food he is going to eat, no more wondering where all of the other “special” kids are. They’ll be there with him, each of them sharing an unseen bond. Each of them able to share their experiences with other kids just like them.
My only regret through this whole process has been that we did not keep a copy of Cam’s essay (where can I pick up my Father of the Year award?). We know the generalities of what he wrote and, when thinking about it, that’s good enough. Anyone who has met Cam doesn’t need 100 words to remind them of why he is a special kid. His proud parents included.