Amanda Scheler and her family have been participating in the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Baltimore since 2012, the year her son was diagnosed with a tree nut allergy. As captain of “The E Team,” Amanda is consistently one of the top fundraisers for her walk, using unique events to raise funds and awareness in her community. We asked Amanda to tell us why she decided to get involved with FARE and her secrets to successful fundraising:
Tell us about your family and your connection to food allergies.
Our son, Ezra, was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening food allergy to tree nuts in 2012. At the time of his first and only reaction, I was not even aware of the severity of tree nuts as a food allergy. During his reaction, I even Googled his symptoms because I didn’t have a basic knowledge of food allergies and what was happening. I waited for my husband to come home to go to the ER. I didn’t call an ambulance and I basically did everything wrong. To this day, it haunts me how much time we wasted and how fortunate we were that his reaction wasn’t worse.
Part of my hope in fundraising and discussing food allergies is to help spread awareness so that if someone finds a child or adult reacting to food that they will recognize what is happening and act quickly by calling 911.
Based on my son’s reaction, our allergist was very upfront with us about the fact that it is highly unlikely he will outgrow his food allergy.
How long have you been walking and fundraising for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Baltimore?
After his diagnosis and our allergist’s thoughts that he would not outgrow his allergy, we knew this is something he would have to live with possibly forever. When we started raising funds for the walk in 2012, it was more for me than our 2-year-old. I needed to feel productive and as though I was working toward a cure. I wanted family and friends to gain knowledge of food allergies as a potentially life-threatening condition and take it seriously.
What are some of the ways that you have fundraised to reach your goal?
About 50 percent of our donations come from friends, family or acquaintances who have seen my husband and I post on Facebook about our fundraisers. Three years ago we started to make efforts to supplement private donations by doing fundraising events. We have had multiple successful dine-out events at Isaac’s Deli in York and Lancaster, PA. This year, we added a new dine-out event at Heritage Hills Golf Course and included a mini-golf fundraiser. All of our events are family and adult friendly.
One thing that makes our events so special is that my husband, Chris, and his band mate, Shawn Groff, play acoustic music during the events. The kids love hearing the music and it attracts friends of ours who enjoy live music to come out and help us raise money for FARE. It’s also very meaningful and fulfilling for our family to share in these events and see people rally for Ezra.
What key piece of fundraising advice would you share with other teams?
Be polite, but have no shame. Fundraising can be a sticky business.
There are some people who may say they will attend or will donate but they don’t follow through. It is important to gently remind people and continue to promote your team and events. Life gets busy and many times you will find people are glad you remind them. My other piece of advice is to always follow up with a thoughtful thank you. People need to know their money or their time is greatly appreciated.
What are you or your family’s favorite parts about participating in the walk?
As Ezra has grown older, we have wanted him to see that many other kids have food allergies and gain a sense of support by going to the walk.
It was pretty overwhelming for me and my husband to see so many families that must deal with food allergies on a daily basis at the walk. It was both very humbling and very exciting to see so many people raising funds and supporting people they love.
This will be our fourth walk and now that Ezra is almost 6, he is very conscious of his food allergy, but he doesn’t feel bad about it. The E Team is named for Ezra and his cousin, Elliott, who is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
Have you used resources from FARE? How? Which ones have you found helpful or which would you recommend to a family new to food allergies?
I use the FARE website so often, it is hard to begin. When we were “new” to the food allergy world, I printed many resources and had friends and family read them. I love how the site has the Top 8 allergen lists available that feature hidden foods.
Now that we are getting ready for Ezra to start kindergarten, I have used many of the resources regarding going to school and creating a 504 Plan. FARE has been my go-to website when navigating the food allergy world. I’m happy to raise funds to support research for a cure for food allergies, raise awareness, and provide valuable resources to families and institutions.
The FARE Walk for Food Allergy raises critical resources to ensure a safer, more inclusive world for those living with food allergies. Register for an event in your area by visiting www.foodallergywalk.org. You can donate to Amanda, Ezra, and The E Team by visiting their team fundraising page.