“Be Your Own Advocate”: Teens at FARE’s Annual Food Allergy Conferences

Carlo Steinman Profile PictureCollege sophomore Carlo Steinman is a member of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG) and will be attending FARE’s Food Allergy Conference this weekend in Oak Brook, IL. Each of our three conferences this year will feature a special teen program that will run alongside the general conference programs from 9:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Programming is being developed with input from local members of FARE’s TAG and will feature peer-driven experiential sessions that will be both fun and educational.

We asked Carlo to tell us a bit about himself and his experience at our conferences in the past.

Tell us about your food allergies and why you’re involved with FARE.

My name is Carlo Steinman, and I am allergic to milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish, most fruits and some vegetables. I work with FARE to help food-allergic young people learn that we are not alone and that there are others like us out there who are going through similar things.

You’ve been to our Food Allergy Conferences before – what was your favorite part?

My favorite part of previous conferences has been the teen lunch session because it provides an empowering environment for socializing with peers while simultaneously learning to better manage my allergies.

What are you most excited about for this year’s conference?

I’m excited to share my experiences growing up and living away from my parents to help others who have not yet gotten to that point of their lives feel more confident about the future.

If you could give one piece of advice to other teens with food allergies, what would it be?

My one piece of advice to other teens with food allergies is to be your own advocate. It’s not easy to always stand up for yourself, but if you do, your food allergies will not stand in the way of leading a happy and fulfilling life.

There’s still time to register for one of our upcoming conferences, being held in Oak Brook, IL (May 4); Arlington, VA (May 18); and Anaheim, CA (June 1). Register today on our website: www.foodallergy.org/conferences

Please note that pre-registration for the Oak Brook conference closes at 5pm EST on April 30, 2013. On-site registration will be available starting at 8 AM on Saturday, May 4 in the Hyatt’s 2nd Floor Foyer. Space is still available and we will not sell out.

Food Allergy-Friendly Summer Camps

312451_10150318964367416_1330614613_nWith the school year winding down, kids across the country are counting down the days until summer. For many kids, summer will include attending a camp.

Ensuring a safe (and fun!) camp experience for children with food allergies requires camp staff, physicians, parents, and campers to work together. Our website contains many helpful tips on how to choose a camp and prepare your child. Additionally, our Resources for Camps page can be a great tool to send to camp staff prior to your child’s arrival.

We’re also introducing a new resource – a list of camps that cater to children with food allergies. There are many camps across the country that are either designed specifically for children with food allergies or welcome campers with food allergies. These camps remove certain allergens from their sites, have instituted procedures for anaphylactic emergencies, and have medical personnel on location who are trained in administering epinephrine.

View the food allergy camps list on our website>

Please note that FARE does not certify, review, or accredit camps. Parents should complete a thorough and independent review of a camp’s practices and procedures to ensure their safety and capacity to accommodate a child with food allergies.

The camp list is a work in progress, and we look forward to hearing from members of the community about camps that have been great partners in providing your child a safe and inclusive camp experience.

Do you know of a camp that’s great for kids with food allergies? Tell us about it in the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that FARE does not endorse, promote, or benefit from listing these camps.This information is provided only as a resource to the food allergy community. FARE has not independently confirmed the completeness or accuracy of the information provided herein. FARE does not assume any responsibility for, or warrant, the representations or offers made within this directory. Nor does FARE assume responsibility for the actions of camps or camp staff members.

FARE Kids Who Care: Haleigh Loso

Haleighscan_headWe often hear about terrific kids across the country who go above and beyond in their efforts to support food allergy education, advocacy, awareness and research. Whether they’re fundraising, advocating for legislation, or helpingraise awareness in their communities, these kids are making a big difference for the food allergy community. Today, we are launching our new “FARE Kids Who Care” blog series to share with you their inspiring stories.

Haleigh Loso is one of 10 students at Woodland Elementary in Portage, Michigan, who has been diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. While the 8-year-old has outgrown her allergies to corn, peas and beans, she is still allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and shellfish.

“I pray every day that someone will find a cure for me and my friends,” Haleigh said.

Along with the three sets of epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines she carries, her classmates and the school staff have been critical to keeping her safe and helping her feel supported when she comes to school each day.

At the beginning of this school year, Haleigh and her mom spearheaded a fundraiser for FARE at her school. They pitted classes against each other, seeing which class could bring in the most money to win the school-wide “Change Wars.” The three classes to raise the most money were rewarded by seeing their teachers come to school in a wig for a day.

Not only did Haleigh lead her school to raise more than $1,600, but she helped raise awareness about food allergies by sending home information to each family, providing allergy-friendly snacks to the winning classes, and equipping each classroom in the school with books about food allergies.

Below is a picture of the teachers whose classes won the Change Wars. According to Haleigh: “They were great sports and wore their wigs the entire school day! My friends LOVED it!”

Haleighscan_teachers

A big thank you to our FARE Kid Who Cares Haleigh and all of the Woodland Elementary community for participating in this fundraiser! The innovative ideas and hard work of kids like Haleigh help us continue our work of ensuring the safety and inclusion of those with food allergies, while also seeking the cure that Haleigh hopes for.

Do you have a great idea for a fundraiser? Get in touch with your regional office: www.foodallergy.org/regional-offices

Read more coverage on MLive.com >

Frequently Asked Questions About FARE’s Food Allergy Conferences

Michael Spigler
By Mike Spigler, Vice President of Education

Our 20th Annual Food Allergy Conferences are quickly approaching and I am very excited about the programs that we have put in place this year! Living well with food allergies takes a team approach and our programs this year reflect that need. In each of our three cities we have an allergist, dietitian, school nurse, food allergy mom and teens with food allergies giving talks. There really is something for everyone.

The first conference is just over a month away in Oak Brook, IL on Saturday, May 4. Late registration and on-site registration are both available, but if you are looking to book a discounted hotel room at the conference, make sure to do it soon as those deadlines are quickly approaching!

Who usually attends the FARE Food Allergy Conferences?

The FARE Food Allergy Conferences are truly a community event. Parents and loved ones of those with food allergies are joined by the children and young adults they care for as well as some of the brightest and most experienced food allergy professionals in the world.

Why should I attend?

I talk to so many people who tell me that their first conference was a life-changing event. For many families, the daily anxiety that food allergies cause results in a feeling of hopelessness and isolation. To our first-time attendees, the opportunity to finally be around so many other amazing people who “get it” is priceless. Combined with our amazing group of speakers, our attendees leave with confidence that there are better days ahead.

Are group or family discounts available?

We are happy to work with you to make bringing your group of 4 or more attendees more affordable. To be considered for a discounted rate, all of those attending must be from either the same family or same organization and must register at the same time. Please contact me at mspigler@foodallergy.org or Lynn Heun at lheun@foodallergy.org. We can also be reached at 800-929-4040.

Will on-site registration be available?

Yes. On-site registration by cash, check or credit card will be available starting an hour before each conference. Please allow extra time to register and get your materials. We do not anticipate selling out, but check our website prior to arriving for more information.

Do I need to select which breakout sessions I want to attend?

No. We have plenty of space in our breakout rooms, but please note that seats in these rooms are on a first-come, first-served basis.

I’ve already registered. What do I do next?

We’re glad to have you join us for this incredible program! You can pick up your name badges and registration materials at our registration tables as early as an hour before each conference (8 a.m. in Oak Brook and Anaheim and 7:30 a.m. in Arlington).

What happened to the morning and afternoon question-and-answer sessions?

No worries, you’ll still have plenty of chances to pick the brains of our speakers! At the end of each talk, we’ve asked our speakers to allow a full 15 minutes to answer your questions. That means a full 30 minutes for questions for our featured allergists (Dr. Robert Wood in Arlington, Dr. Ruchi Gupta in Oak Brook, or Dr. Philippe Bégin).

Will food be served at the conference? What are you doing to make sure that the food served is safe for my family?

Yes. While breakfast is not provided, we do offer morning coffee service as well as a full lunch. We work very hard to make sure that our hotels follow safe practices both inside and outside of the kitchen to keep our attendees safe. Every food item that is served will include an ingredient list and will be separated from other foods to minimize the chances of cross-contact. A member of the hotel’s culinary team will also be available to answer questions during lunch.

For those who have extremely restricted diets or an allergy outside of the top 8 (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish or shellfish), please let us know prior to your arrival. We will make every attempt to serve you a safe meal, but you are also welcome to bring your own ready-to-eat food. Please note that for the safety of our other attendees, if you do bring outside food, we ask that you do not eat it in any of the conference meeting space.

Even though we are hopeful that there will not be a problem, it is wise to always ask a question about any food item that you feel unsure of.

We welcome any questions you may have and if you would like to see the menus prior to your arrival, please email me at mspigler@foodallergy.org.

What other safeguards are in place?

FARE staff will be available in meeting rooms at all times, and we will also have a nurse on-site throughout the day in case of an emergency. The hotels have also been briefed on a plan of action in case an emergency arises.

What will the teen sessions look like? Do teens who attend need to attend those sessions?

This year’s teen sessions will be a bit different than previous conferences. We are looking to make the sessions at this year’s conference fun and experiential. To do this, members of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG) have been helping us design the agendas in each city and teens who attend will be in for a fun day of learning from their peers.

Any teen who attends the conference is encouraged to stay in the teen sessions, but teens are also welcome to go to talks in the main sessions if they feel more comfortable or are interested in hearing one of the other speakers.

What are the ages of teens who attend the teen sessions at the conferences?

The teen sessions will be useful for anyone between the ages of 11 and 22. This year we are being very careful to make sure that there are age-appropriate activities and discussions for all age ranges.

May I bring my younger child with me to the conference? Is child care provided?

No. We ask that parents do not bring children younger than 11 years old to the conference. Our program has been designed to only be suitable for those older than 11. No child care is available.

Will continuing education credits be available for health professionals who attend?

No. Unfortunately we are not able to offer continuing education credits for this year’s conference series.
If you are a dietitian, mental health professional, or nurse, you may be able to use your attendance at the conference to claim credits on your own after the conference. Check with your accrediting body to see if attending our conferences can be accepted.

What if I have more questions?

We welcome the chance to answer any questions you may have about our annual conference series. You may email me directly at mspigler@foodallergy.org or Lynn Heun at lheun@foodallergy.org. We can also be reached at 800-929-4040.