Reflections on Ten Years of a “Crazy Idea”
Creating a happy place
So, I did what a lot of us do. I googled “food allergy summer camp” in 2009 – and came up a big nothing! No overnight camp could give my son a camp experience where he (and his parents) would feel safe. Fortunately, I’m an eternal optimist, so I decided to start a summer camp – how hard could it be?! When my son started first grade, I was fortunate enough to be able to leave my job as a Project Manager for the City of Portland so that I could be the food allergy mom who organized every party and chaperoned every school field trip and activity (Turns out the Food Allergy Moms can also be Super Mom School Volunteers)
When the recession whittled down my small consulting practice to near zero, I decided to dig into this idea of a summer camp for kids with food allergies. I spent the next year talking with camp directors and food allergy organizations, physicians, other parents and anyone else I could think of. All of this discovery eventually led to the launch of Camp Blue Spruce in 2012. Since I spoke with everyone I could find and conducted countless google searches, I can confidently say that Camp Blue Spruce is the only week-long overnight camp in the country dedicated to kids with food allergies and other related conditions.
Build it and they will come
How’d I make this happen? I’m a professional project manager, community organizer, and the executive director of a start-up non-profit —all which requires skills to do this crazy thing. But what made this work is that my super power is finding people who know things I do not and who approach problems from a completely different perspective. The heroes of the story of Camp Blue Spruce are the amazing team of wonderful colleagues, many as nearly full-time volunteers, who have brought their expertise and skills to create an enduring organization that focuses on meeting the social and emotional impacts of children living with food allergies. Together, we’ve have had a profound impact on hundreds of kids by creating a safe camp experience where kids explore new things and really feel like they belong.