FARE Kids Who Care: Connor deMayo

connermayoConnor deMayo, a high school sophomore, just became an Eagle Scout after completing a community service project designed around making restaurants in his town more allergy aware. He enlisted the help of the boys in his Boy Scout troop and set out to educate the restaurants in New Canaan, Connecticut on food allergy safety. With guidance from a local FARE-affiliated group, he was able to reach chefs, owners, managers, and wait staff in more than 25 restaurants. We asked Connor to tell us more about his project:

1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?

I was diagnosed at age one to the following foods: milk, eggs, sesame, peanuts and tree nuts. 

Having food allergies means you can never let your guard down and always be vigilant. By understanding what you eat and reading labels carefully and being careful when ordering in restaurants you can make eating less scary and more enjoyable.  

2. Tell us about your Eagle Scout project.

My Eagle project was to provide local restaurants in my town awareness training of food allergies and cross contact, including ideas on how to serve food-allergic customers. I put together a 30 minute awareness presentation, including FARE’s restaurant video. Then, I organized and led more than 16 friends/scouts into four teams and we each set out to all the restaurants in my town (more than 25). I put in more than 170 hours from beginning to end.

We trained owners, managers, kitchen staff and wait staff.  They all were all eager to learn more. I also gave each restaurant FARE’s kitchen posters of the top allergic foods as well as a folder with copies of the presentation. The restaurants were all very surprised at the rise in food allergies, many of the staff had no idea a customer could actually die from a food or even from cross contact. My friends who have food allergies as well noticed a big difference when they ordered at these restaurants. They definitely made changes in their restaurant procedures after hearing my presentation.

3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it was important to you?

Eating out is scary for many food-allergic people. Increasing awareness makes this safer and more enjoyable, especially for pre-teens and teens who are just starting to navigate eating out without their parents. A few simple precautions may save lives. If I saved one life by putting in all these hours and training then it was all worth it.

4. How would you advise other kids or adults who want to do something similar?  

Recruit your friends and an adult to help. I was fortunate to have Mrs. Helen Jaffe as my mentor during the project; she is the Chairperson of a FARE-affiliated group in Connecticut.  She was very helpful to me during this project. Ask your local Boy Scout troop to help you as well.

5. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated!  My friends have my back and ask me if it’s ok to go to a certain restaurant for dinner and if it’s safe for me to eat there. 

6. What advice would you give a younger kid who was just diagnosed with food allergies?

Take it seriously; have your epinephrine on you at all times; always read labels; and work with your parents to get educated. I would direct them to FARE and their great website with lots of resources. 

Thank you, Connor, for helping to make eating out safer for your friends and neighbors with food allergies! Visit our website to learn more about dining out with food allergies and the ServSafe Allergens Online Course for Restaurants.  

FARE Kids Who Care: Aron Rabin

AronandGoldaSix-year-old Aron Rabin approached his mom one day with an idea for a way to raise money to “help doctors find a cure for food allergies.” Aron, who is allergic to tree nuts and fish, wanted to make awareness bracelets to sell to friends and family. What started as a simple idea has grown into a hugely successful fundraiser! Aron has raised $1,115 so far selling bracelets, and has helped spread awareness and educate others in the process. We asked Aron a few questions about himself and his fundraiser:

1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?
I am allergic to tree nuts and fish. I feel alone sometimes. Some people have lunches with nuts and fish in it and I can’t sit with them. It makes me feel kind of sad that I can’t be with my friends at lunch.

2. Tell us about how you have been fundraising for FARE.
My mom and I made bracelets to sell to our friends and family to raise money. We made teal, black, and glow in the dark options.

3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it important to you?
I wanted to raise money to give to doctors so they could make a medicine or liquid that would make my allergies go away. I feel it’s very important so I don’t feel alone.

bracelets4. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?
The truth is that some people are different than others but you can still be their friend and treat them nicely!

5. What advice would you give a kid or a friend who was just diagnosed with food allergies?
I would tell them to always check with people who serve them food to make sure it’s safe. I would also tell them to read labels.

Thank you to Aron and the Rabin family for your support and for being an inspiration to other kids!

FARE Kids Who Care: Anthony Schrecengost

Team Schrecengost!

Anthony Schrecengost, age 14, was one of two Nevada students out of 100 nationwide to receive a Prudential Spirit of Community Award for his volunteerism. Along with the award, Anthony received a $1,000 prize, $300 of which he donated to FARE! Anthony’s family has participated in the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Las Vegas every year since 2009 and has raised more than $2,000 for food allergy education, advocacy, awareness and research. We asked Anthony to tell us more about what it’s like to live with food allergies, and why he continues to be an all-star supporter of FARE:

1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?

Like my two brothers, I am allergic to many foods. Some of the foods that I am allergic to include all milk products, eggs, beef, seafood, shellfish, all nuts (peanuts and tree nuts), coconut, bananas, all melons, all berries, green peppers, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, and many, many more food items.

Having food allergies is not great, but it is my life, so I deal with it. It is easier now that I am getting older because I understand more about food allergies and how eating foods that I am allergic to will affect my body. When I was younger it was harder because I was unable to eat a lot of the foods that my cousins or friends could eat. It was hard to go to birthday parties, school functions or restaurants. Some people didn’t understand what it was like to have food allergies. They thought I would only get a headache, rash or stomachache. They didn’t realize that I could possibly die if I ate the wrong foods. But, it is okay, because as I get older I try to educate others about what it is like having food allergies. I hope one day to become a pediatric allergist in Las Vegas. I want to help kids like me who have food allergies.

2. Tell us about how you have been fundraising for FARE.

I recently won an award and $1,000 for volunteering in Las Vegas. I chose to donate $300 to FARE. Also, I walk each year in the FARE Walk for Food Allergy and ask family members and friends to donate to this great cause.

3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it was important to you?

I want to help FARE all that I can so that FARE can continue to educate others about food allergies and also do research to maybe find out why people have food allergies or how people can one day get rid of their food allergies. This is why I try each year to hang posters throughout my community and ask local doctors and businesses to put FARE brochures out for their patients.

It is important to me to support FARE because I have severe food allergies. Sometimes I don’t understand how I got all of these food allergies. Both of my brothers also have food allergies and I know that there are a lot of kids like us who are challenged each day. I will always promote FARE and tell people how they are doing great things to promote awareness regarding food allergies, educating others, helping pass laws throughout the country and supporting medical research.

4. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?

I think the best way to be a good friend to someone who has food allergies is to just be a “good” friend. Don’t try to get them to eat anything that they are allergic to. Never give them any food if you think it has or might have an ingredient that they are allergic to. Never bully them, tease them or make them feel bad about their food allergies. Always be supportive, compassionate and understanding if they can’t eat a certain food, participate in a certain task or go to a restaurant that they can’t eat at. Basically, just be a good and kind person.

5. What advice would you give a younger kid who was just diagnosed with food allergies?

I would tell a younger child that I also have food allergies and I understand how they feel and what they are going through. I would tell them that it is okay to feel upset and frustrated at times. But I would also tell them that it is going to be okay. They just have to take precautions in their life so that they don’t get sick or even worse. I would tell them to learn as much as they can about their food allergies. I would tell them about FARE and how great FARE is in helping people with food allergies.

I would also tell them how I survived going to school with having severe food allergies. I would give them all the helpful tips that I used daily to get through different situations. For example, at school I never ordered a school lunch, I always brought my own lunch. Also, my mom packed a small container of safe snacks for me. I would also tell them that they can still eat at restaurants but that they should tell their waiter and chef about their food allergies.

I would tell them that the biggest thing is to remember that they are wonderful and did nothing wrong to have food allergies. I would also remind them that as long as they were careful and did not eat anything they were allergic to, they would be okay and get used to having food allergies. I might not be able to eat a cheddar cheese potato chip, but I can eat a plain potato chip, and I am okay with that because at least I can still eat. Having food allergies is hard some days, but you can manage, survive and even thrive. Because of my food allergies, I have a great purpose in my life to help others who have food allergies. I want to become the best pediatric allergist so that I can help other kids like me.

For more information about Anthony’s volunteerism award, read this article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

To participate in a FARE Walk for Food Allergy in your area, visit www.foodallergywalk.org.

FARE Kids Who Care: Making School More Food-Allergy-Friendly

Whether eating in the lunchroom or playing team sports, navigating food allergies at school can sometimes be hard for kids. Nicole Dunham and Ryan Smith each came up with fun and positive solutions to help meet their needs at school, and in turn were able to raise awareness about food allergies and make a difference. We hope you’ll share these stories with your children or friends to give them ideas of how they can inspire improvements and spread the word about food allergies in their schools too!

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High school senior Nicole Durham, a  cross country and track runner, didn’t let the abundance of shelled peanuts at sporting events stop her running career – even after having breathing issues that forced her to withdraw from a state race. This setback prompted her to focus her senior project on peanut allergy, with the goal of educating, creating awareness, and raising money to help researchers find a cure. As her final project, she successfully lobbied administrators to restrict the sale of shelled peanuts in her school district and at school activities. She also raised $1,000 for FARE by selling “No Nuts Allowed” water bottles, hosting a sweatpants/gym short day fundraiser, and collecting personal donations.

Read more about Nicole’s story in her own words.

ryansmithFirst-grader Ryan Smith won a raffle at his school to be “Principal for the Day.” That day, teachers could wear casual clothes if they made a donation to the charity of Ryan’s choosing. He chose FARE without hesitation, and collected extra donations from his 9-year-old sister and family. In addition to raising funds, the Smith family also helped push the school to offer milk-free pizza in the cafeteria. Even though they hit a few snags along the way, Ryan wasn’t willing to give up on working with the school nutrition office to provide a safe pizza. Now he and other students in the school with milk allergy can enjoy pizza along with their friends.

Nicole and Ryan should be proud of themselves for making a lasting impact on their schools that will help students with food allergies for years to come.

FARE Kids Who Care: Charlie Porter

charlieOne of our key advocacy initiatives this year involves expanding the availability of epinephrine auto-injectors in schools. More than 20 states already have laws or guidelines in place allowing schools to have on hand “stock” epinephrine, which is not prescribed to a specific student, but can be used for any student or staff member in an anaphylactic emergency.

Washington state joined that group in April with the help of Charlie Porter and his mother Sally.

Charlie is allergic to peanuts, soy and peas; Sally is the Food Allergy Chair of her school’s PTA and a tireless food allergy advocate. Sally worked with State Sen. Mark Mullet to help pass the new legislation in Washington, which will greatly increase schools’ ability to provide life-saving medication for students.

Charlie did his part by bravely testifying before the state legislature, talking to the legislators about food allergies and demonstrating how to use an auto-injector. On May 16, 2013, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law at a ceremony at his office in Olympia.

We talked to Charlie about what it was like to advocate for this law:

What’s it like having food allergies?

It can be hard because people say I am missing out on peanut candy like Snickers.

How did you get involved with the stock epinephrine law in Washington? Why was it was important to you?

Because my mom was one of the people who helped make this law. My mom thought I should get involved. I heard stories about how kids died from food allergies and I didn’t want that to happen anymore. Everyone should be safe in school.

What was it like to talk in front of the state legislature?

I was very nervous. I didn’t know if I was saying the right things. It was my first time speaking in front of very important people. They were all very nice and they clapped for me. When they talked about it on the House Floor, one representative said, “If a nine-year-old can do it, anyone can.”

I really like the law we worked on – we worked hard. It was really fun to be there and see the governor sign it into law.  He even said my name to the cameras. It is a moment I will never forget.

Do you think other kids could do the same thing? What would your advice be to them?

Yes, I think other kids could do it easily. I would tell them, “Don’t be nervous – It’ll be great! Practice with someone you trust and remember what you practice.”

Thank you to Charlie and Sally for their hard work in passing this important bill in Washington!

Just two weeks ago on May 22, 2013, the federal School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (H.R. 2094) was reintroduced into Congress. This bill encourages states to adopt laws requiring schools to have on hand “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors. It’s now critical to build support for federal legislation, whether or not your state has already passed a bill. Please contact your U.S. Representative and urge them to support this important legislation!

For information on how to contact your U.S. representative about the H.R. 2094 bill, please visit our website.

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!”

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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

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