by Amanda Painter, South Chapter Coordinator
Teal Pumpkin season is upon us!
Thanks to media coverage, national promotion and now being able to purchase teal pumpkins at craft stores, food allergy awareness is increasing. Despite the growing popularity of the project, I often hear from many parents each year “we didn’t see any teal pumpkins when trick-or-treating.”
So, how do we, food allergy families and advocates, get others to participate? Remember that we are the driving force for this project. Tell people about it!
Often our assumption is that those without food allergies see all the media coverage and are encouraged to do it themselves. While this does happen at times, it's usually a personal connection that will motivate someone to participate in the project.
Here are some suggestions to encourage those in your neighborhood and community to take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
As with any group of concerned people, we can make a difference when we all pitch in. Help promote compassion and understanding during this Halloween season.
What other strategies have you used to encourage others to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project?
by Amanda Painter, South Chapter Coordinator
I wrote before about food allergy moms making a positive impact with the companies they founded. You can read that blog here. For this blog post, I want to highlight young people who are making a positive impact (and also happen to have food allergies). These teens have gone above and beyond everyday management of their food allergies and developed resources that benefit the food allergy community.
First, I would like to share with you, Morgan Smith. Morgan (currently a college sophomore) has written three e-books:Traveling Tips for Teens with Food Allergies, The College Survival Guide for Teens with Food Allergies and Morgan's Corner Collection: A History of Living with Food Allergies. Each of these books is a must read!
Traveling Tips for Teens with Food Allergies provides step-by-step guidance for trip preparation that empowers teens to be in control. The planning tips in this book include everything from choosing an airline to outlining where to find meals. Morgan shares ideas to help ease anxiety about traveling, and checklists to make the entire process thorough and seamless. Morgan also shares snapshots of his travels; the successful parts, and the ones where he had to troubleshoot on his own due to a change in plans.
The College Survival Guide for Teens with Food Allergies is an absolute must for teens heading to college soon (and a great resource for their parents too). College selection is one of the most important choices an individual makes in their life. When you add managing food allergies to the mix, there are many more issues and items to contemplate. Morgan shares the steps he took to decide on the college that was right for him. This survival guide suggests what to consider when examining housing and kitchen accessibility, what accommodations to request and the process for doing so.
Morgan stresses the importance of personal preparedness and covers social situations that need consideration, including dating, roommates and parties. The book gives us a glimpse into his day-to-day life; that is of great importance for both teens and their parents. It will help assist in discussions and preparedness on how to manage certain situations.
Parents will be glad to know that Morgan also reminds the readers that they need to check in with their parents!
Morgan's Corner Collection: A History of Living with Food Allergies is a documentation of Morgan's journey. In these pages, you will find Morgan's perspective and advice on managing food allergies from elementary school to traveling abroad in college. Topics range from dealing with teasing/bullying to managing holidays and staying safe at school.
Morgan is clearly living and thriving while managing food allergies. He is a remarkable example to others on how food allergies shouldn't hold you back. With proper planning and preparedness, you can follow your dreams and experience all that life has to offer.
You can purchase Morgan's e-book and read more about him on his website: Morgan's New Corner.
I can't write about Morgan without mentioning his parents. Nicole and Robert Smith set an excellent example for Morgan (and his sister). The Smiths are creators of AllergicChild.com. I encourage you to visit this website. It is an exceptional resource for those managing food allergies.
Next on the list is Cyrus Moassesi. Cyrus (currently a college-bound high school senior) is the creator of Food Allergy IceBreaker. This site provides talking points (and many other resources) for individuals that do not have food allergies but are affected by them. He covers many situations from play dates with little ones to peer-to-peer teen conversations. It can be challenging and awkward to ask others about their food allergies. By using these icebreaker suggestions, individuals show that they are interested in learning how to support someone with food allergies. Cyrus has many other accomplishments for his young age. You can read more about those on his website.
I also must add a couple of lines about Cyrus' mother, Caroline Moassesi. Caroline is a fierce food allergy and asthma advocate, setting a fantastic example not only for Cyrus but other advocates like me. Her passion is inspiring. I recommend checking out her Grateful Foodie blog.
My last must-read resource developed by a teenager is the book: Living with Life-Threatening Food Allergies: A Teenager's Guide to Doing it Well. Elisa Stavola wrote her book while in high school. This guidebook is full of practical advice on handling everything high school has to offer. From dating to sports, Elisa shares her tips and personal experiences, encouraging readers to be in control of their food allergy management. You can purchase her book on Amazon here.
Each of these individuals is an impressive example of how to make a positive impact. They are inspiring a community with the resources they share. I encourage you to check out their resources to assist you or those you know in the food allergy journey.
These individuals also set a wonderful example of self-management and self-advocacy skills. I want to take this time to emphasize how vital it is to teach children at a young age to self-manage and self-advocate. Building these skills in children at an early age will allow a successful high-school and college experience (and the rest of their lives). You will not always be with your child to navigate their journey for them. Read more here about teaching self-management.
I asked Morgan Smith to share a few words with our readers about his journey. This is what he had to share:
"Food allergies are entirely manageable. It's a mix of planning and self-advocacy: planning will help set-up the structures you need to succeed at school, on trips, and elsewhere in life, but self-advocacy will assure that you will always remain safe. It's important to never be afraid to speak up about your food allergies and voice your concerns with friends and strangers alike. People are a lot nicer and accommodating than you may think! Growing up with food allergies is just a long journey to develop these skills and, to me, life with food allergies is no different than life with brown hair or blue eyes - it's a fact of life. It's always better to have fun in the meantime!"
Again, excellent advice. Be sure your child (or yourself) is still having fun while confidently managing their food allergies, and utilize the above resources to assist in your journey!
Disclaimer: FACET has not been paid to recommend these resources.
by Amanda Painter, South Chapter Coordinator
When I decided to attend my first FARE Walk for Food Allergy, I didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have a local walk and traveled to participate in this one. I was compelled to attend though, for the sake of my daughter, and maybe for the sake of my own sanity.
The funds raised at the walk were for FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). This organization (and predecessors, FAAN & FAI) had been my go-to for information as I was in the beginning stages of this food allergy journey. I was happy to do a small part to support this organization.
During the ceremony, the speaker spoke of her child with food allergies, how important it was to educate those around the child, and the hope for a cure. I looked through the crowd and saw tears in the eyes of other mothers; the same tears that were in mine. The connection was immediately there. They too were working tirelessly to avoid another reaction in their child. They worry that they won’t respond fast enough. They fear losing their child to the wrong food. They hope for a cure.
When I left the event I knew there was a larger community standing behind me supporting my child, my family and me. I knew I wasn’t alone with all of the challenges we faced, and challenges yet to come. I was a part of a community that understood and worked to create change. I left that event making plans in my head of how I could contribute more to this community that means so much to us. Fast forward to today, and now I co-chair a local walk.
I walk for my daughter
I walk to show my daughter how much we support her. I want her to feel the support of this community and know that she is never alone with the challenges she faces. She has a team behind her. A support network that is much greater than just our family and friends there walking with her. There is a community that knows her struggles and celebrates her triumphs with us.
I walk to have a morning that is all about her. She is often restricted in one way or another at kid-friendly events. We spend carnivals, festivals and other events following behind her, reminding her to be aware and not step on the popcorn spilled on the ground. Asking her to not touch this or that. Stopping a well-meaning person handing out free samples. Avoiding the melted ice cream on a bench. Answering her questions of, “is this safe for me?” The answer is often no. But at our walk, the answer is always yes. Yes, go play, enjoy and be unrestricted for the morning.
I walk for a cure
I’m a firm believer in accepting the diagnosis of food allergy and not being focused on the “someday.” I’ve moved past the stage of thinking “surely she’ll outgrow these allergies soon.” We live in the present moment, and in this moment she has multiple life-threatening food allergies. Despite this diagnosis, she is thriving. We still hope for a cure. A cure would allow her (and millions of others) to not live in fear of a reaction.
I walk to raise awareness and share education
Until there is a cure, it is vital that those managing food allergies live a full and happy life. I want this for my daughter and for everyone managing food allergies. It takes an educated and caring community to support individuals with food allergies. I want my child to be safe and included. I want her to be surrounded by those who “get it” and encourage her to make healthy choices. I want everyone around her to know how to help in an emergency. I want to surround her with a community that is compassionate to her challenges and support her to manage her diagnosis confidently. Awareness and education are crucial for all of this to happen.
I walk for 15 million Americans, millions more around the world, and their families
I walk for the parents that struggle to afford allergy testing and life-saving medication.
I walk for the adults managing food allergies in the workplace.
I walk for the mom afraid she will pass her food allergies onto her unborn child.
I walk for the college student that is navigating living away from his/her parents for the first time.
I walk for the teen challenged to be independent and remember all the steps to stay safe.
I walk for the child wanting desperately to fit in and not be excluded by classroom treats.
I walk for the preschooler struggling to forget the terrifying ride in an ambulance to the hospital.
I walk for the toddler too young to understand the consequences of trying a friend’s snack.
I walk for the mom that thought it was just another morning, feeding her baby a food for the first time. Not knowing her life would be forever changed in that moment.
I walk for the family that grieves the loss of a loved one due to consuming the wrong food.
I walk to honor the memory of those who have passed - Natalie, BJ, Sabrina and too many others.
I walk in hope that we will not have to add more names to the list.
I believe that focusing on something productive allows less time to dwell in the negative. Participating in our walk allows me to do this. It allows me to be a part of the solution to the challenges my family, and many others, face every day. It allows me to teach my children to do the same so that they will strive to be healthy and productive individuals. We chose to be positive and work to make our community and world better.
by Amanda Painter, South Chapter Coordinator
Our world is often turned upside down after the diagnosis of a life-threatening allergy. Many hours are then spent on research, how to avoid the allergen, what could happen if there is accidental contact, and on and on.
While this research is crucial and a part of the food allergy journey, I think it is important to not let it consume you. Once you have a good handle on the diagnosis, know prevention steps and are confident in your emergency preparedness, I think it’s a good time to take a step back. Take a break from reading the scary stories and find something else to focus on. This could be a new hobby, learning a new skill, or a home project.
For me, this new focus was still concentrated on food allergies but the focus was outward. My goal is to support those managing food allergies and to educate those that aren’t. I’m able to do this in many ways through FACET. This allows me to focus on something I’m passionate about and put my energy and knowledge into something positive and productive, instead of allowing the anxiety and fear to consume me.
I would like take this opportunity to highlight two companies that were founded by individuals doing the same thing. They have used their expertise to make a difference for others.
The first company is LifeReach. Here is what the co-founders shared with me about their inspiration:
“As the mothers of children with life-threatening allergies, we were determined to keep our children safe, while allowing them to lead full lives. As our children became old enough to be with caretakers, we focused on creating the feeling of home in our children's schools and churches. So, we started LifeReach, LLC to prepare those communities with quick, easy access to life-saving medication and education on how to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis. We rejected the fear and hysteria surrounding anaphylaxis and dedicated our efforts to helping change the outcome of an individual experiencing anaphylaxis. LifeReach provides bright orange, durable, tamper-evident Anaphylaxis Emergency Kits (AEK) to store epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPen or Auvi-Q) as well as education materials approved by a nationally recognized allergist. After 9 years of successfully implementing our system in schools, we have heard from numerous caregivers sharing with us they are more ready, willing and able to be first responders while waiting on emergency 9-1-1 personnel should the need arise. Now, LifeReach is growing beyond Tennessee and placing the LifeReach AEK (same concept as AED) and educational materials in any appropriate location (schools, airplanes, stadiums...) to provide easy access to the life-saving medication, the knowledge of when it's needed and the confidence to use that medication.
Visit our website, LifeReach.com or call 1-844-kit-4you so we can help you and those in your community be more prepared.”
- Carol Len Portis and Katie Lennon - Co-Founders of LifeReach, LLC
The second company is Kiss Freely. While the companies seem very different, their motivations are very similar. I personally have had an excellent experience with their products as I was searching for make-up for my daughter’s ballet recital. (Kiss Freely makeup is free of her allergens!) Jennifer Kurko is the Founder of Kiss Freely. Here is her response when I asked her about starting the company, their goals and how it has been beneficial to her personally:
“Our goals for the company is to provide a safe alternative for people with food allergies and their loved ones, and to increase awareness, safety and research for food allergies.
We decided to start the company after my oldest daughter, who was 6 at the time, suggested it! I had been making lip balm and body butter for her for a while when she said, ‘I can't be the only person who needs special lip balm. I think we should sell it!’ We decided as a family that if we were going to do this a portion of the profits would go to food allergy advocacy, awareness and research.
As you know, we make a lot of make up for recitals. I know that that mom is already worried about so many things on recital day (is there food back stage? Who will keep the epipen?). I am so grateful that I made that mom's day a little easier. And seeing these young girls getting to wear make up like their friends makes me tear up every time. I show the pictures to my daughters and they always feel connected to this other child who is just like them. In a way the business has helped them connect with so many other people who are similar. It has made them feel less different.
We have a motto in our house, ‘there is a solution to every problem.’ The first few months or even years it seemed as if we could not really find a solution to the food allergies. Our business had helped us as a family to keep trying. We made so many bad lip balms before we made the perfect one. Right now I am working on liquid eyeliner for a nut allergic teenager. I am on my 3rd try and as a family we talk about it, our girls make suggestions and keep trying until we find something that works.
For all of us the anxiety is always there. The business for me, allows me to reduce the anxiety in one small area. “
I know I speak for many others in the food allergy community when I say – Thank you and great job, ladies!
If you find yourself becoming consumed in a negative way by managing food allergies, if the fear and anxiety are overwhelming, I encourage you to find something constructive to do with your excess time. Let these stories inspire you to focus outward and make a positive impact.
There are countless other companies that were founded for the same reasons. What is your favorite company that was started by someone with a personal connection to food allergies, working to make a positive impact?
Disclaimer: FACET does not endorse or sponsor the products/companies above. Nor has FACET been paid to include these products.
We understand the challenges of managing food allergies.
It is our mission to support, educate and advocate to improve
the social aspect of
Please join FACET in
our mission today.