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Chef Robert Irvine, kids with juvenile arthritis talk healthy lifestyles at local camp

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Chef Robert Irvine

Food Network TV personality and cookbook author Robert Irvine talks to children with juvenile arthritis during a session at Camp Cambria on the grounds of Camp Courage.

 As camp came to a close for 135 children suffering from juvenile arthritis, a familiar voice rang out from the dining hall at Camp Cambria, located on the grounds of Camp Courage.

“Alright! Be Quiet! Put your hands in the air! All of You!”

Before the children stood Robert Irvine, the renowned chef, cookbook author and star of television programs, including the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible”.

The children were encouraged to wave their hands while jumping and screaming.

“Put your hands in the air and do whatever you want,” Irvine said. “But you have to keep moving.”

Irvine was the surprise guest on the final morning of camp, located about 15 miles southwest of Monticello on Cedar Lake.

For a week, the children spent a life-changing experience with others suffering from the disease.

Irvine flew into town to make sure the campers left with a message they would long remember.

“Food and family equals fun and fitness,” Irvine told the campers.

Irvine hammered home the point that while juvenile arthritis is a disease the children can’t see and don’t necessarily understand, it doesn’t have to stop them in their tracks.

“You’re only as good as what you put in your body,” Irvine said.

“If someone gives you a Mercedes to drive and you put olive oil in it, you’re not going to get very far,” Irvine said.

The human body isn’t too different from a car.

“If you don’t take care of it, what’s going to happen to your body,” Irvine asked.

While discussing health, nutrition, and movement, Irvine discussed the importance of what the children eat, when they eat and how they eat it.

That includes the most important meal of the day- breakfast, and specifically, oatmeal.

That’s because oatmeal is a good source of fiber and takes about two hours to burn off.

After breakfast, Irvine suggested the children eat every two to three hours- or about seven times a day.

The highlight of Irvine’s visit might have been the sharing of a recipe for a healthy smoothie. Not only did Irvine and his team create a strawberry-chocolate smoothie, they share samples with the 135 campers and their counselors.

In a blender, he combined strawberries, bananas, coconut milk, cacao powder, cacao nibs, dried coconut, and agave syrup.

The children loved their smoothie treat.

Irvine told the children that as they grow older, they need to take responsibility for their bodies and what they eat.

“You need to understand what you need for your body. It’s a choice,” he said.

It’s also the responsibility of the children to relay to their parents what their choices are.

“Be well. Eat lots of food. Be Safe,” Irvine said in closing.

Before leaving Minnesota, Irvine sat down with the Monticello Times and talked about his desire to visit the children at Camp Cambria.

“For me, its about how I can make the biggest impact on these families and kids,” Irvine said.

“There’s 135 kids here whop suffer from juvenile arthritis. They didn’t ask for the disease,” he said.

“I’m happy I can fly up here, scream and yell, make a shake and show them I care,” he added.

Irvine sees Camp Cambria as an important tool in the children’s fight against juvenile arthritis.

“It’s like an oasis here where like-minded kids and make friends and talk to each other about their disease and what they’re going through,” he said.

And through it all, the children were learning something very important, Irvine said.

“Through eating and exercise they can do things throughout their lives so their pain doesn’t increase- it decreases,” he said. 

Reach Jeff Hage at



Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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