Holidays

Cheers to Dave Ryan: Baker, Advocate, and Food Allergy Dad

By: Christina West, leader of the Food Allergy Community of Western Springs Area

Thanks for the opportunity to recognize my husband, Dave Ryan, for all the amazing work he does on behalf of our family and the food-allergic community. Our daughter Audra has multiple life-threatening food allergies.

We both work outside the home, but Dave has taken primary responsibility for all the food in our home. He grocery shops, calls companies to check manufacturing conditions, prepares mounds of food from scratch, keeps the fridge stocked with cut fruits and veggies as ready-to-go snacks, and is the go-to baker for extended family birthdays and celebrations so that our daughter can fully participate in desserts. He also keeps our freezer stocked with cupcakes and whips up a quick chocolate frosting using safe chips on days of her friends’ birthday parties.

“My dad does a great job cooking me safe food to eat that is delicious.” – Audra, 6 years old

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Dave lighting the candles at Audra’s birthday party, featuring his homemade cupcake tower

On Thanksgiving, he works with his mother on the menu and ingredients so that she can modify her traditional recipes and enjoy her favorite holiday with her granddaughter. We tag-team on researching things like last-minute replacement treats for an unexpected frozen treat day at school, but Dave is often the one running to some far-off store to get the safest option I’ve found via an online search.

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We split responsibility for restaurant due diligence, and Dave regularly engages in tea party-type games of restaurant in our home where our daughter is the server who then has to go get a manager (“Sir, she’s going to look just like me, but it’s only a coincidence”) so that he can explain more about his or his son’s or his doll’s allergies, depending on who else is playing along.

“My dad helps me be safe by making sure I don’t eat the wrong food.” – Audra, 6 years old

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Dave is also dedicated to improving conditions in our local community and beyond. He attends every school board meeting or makes arrangements so that I can attend in his place; he also unequivocally supports my availability to organize or attend other food-allergy related functions including local parent meet-ups, educational events, or even far-away FARE conferences. He copied and helped hang posters for Food Allergy Awareness Week, and participated generously in a benefit night for the new Annie LeGere Foundation in our area started by a mother who lost her daughter to anaphylaxis last year.

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Dave and family at the FARE Walk for Food Allergy

Dave has his own relationship with our daughter’s teachers, school principal, and district superintendent. We work together to improve the climate in our schools and typically have in-person meetings together (Dave would never miss a 504 meeting!), but he also takes responsibility for his own concerns and follow-ups. Likewise, he and I split duty on taking our daughter to the allergist for routine follow-ups, and always attend all annual allergist and pediatrician appointments together. He always takes our daughter for blood draws, and I am very grateful for that because she does terribly when I’m in the room!

Dave is also great with grassroots conversations with other dads, coworkers, friends, and family, from talking about local school snack policy, to the voluntary nature of advisory food labels, to the lack of uniformly-enforced airline policies, even what defines anaphylaxis and how to use an auto-injector.

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Dave has always been there for our kids and for our daughter through all of her food-allergy pitfalls and triumphs. He celebrates her every day through his actions. He puts our daughter’s safety and well-being above money, his personal time, above the opinions others, above all. He is a fantastic food-allergy dad, and we are so very fortunate to have him!

Editor’s note: Christina is a pretty awesome food allergy mom as well! Read about her work advocating for bus drivers in her town to be trained on responding to food allergy emergencies.

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