FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champion: Jessica St.Louis

jessicastlouisJessica St.Louis is not only the mother of children with multiple food allergies, she’s the author of a new book titled “Mangos for Max,” which aims to introduce food allergy to preschool and young elementary school children in a gentle manner. She is also generously donating 10 percent of proceeds from the book to FARE to help us fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety and inclusion of those living with food allergies. We asked Jessica to tell us more about her book, available on Amazon and in select book stores:

Tell us about your book. How did you think of the idea? Why did you decide to write it?

My book is about a monkey who is allergic to bananas.  Most people associate monkeys with bananas, so I thought this would be a good way to describe food allergies to a younger audience. When my oldest son was entering preschool, I wanted to find a book that I could read to his class that would describe food allergies without all of the details of anaphylaxis. I felt some stories could be a little overwhelming for the little ones. So I was on the hunt for a story to gently introduce food allergies, which could benefit not only the food allergic child, but the classmates as well. Since, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to read to a younger audience, I decided to write it myself.

Besides writing a book, what are some ways that others can get involved with food allergy education?

There are opportunities at all levels! It starts by educating yourself and your family, next the classmates, friends, and peers of your children. Children make wonderful advocates. I think focusing education on not only children with food allergies, but their friends, is a great way to get involved and help keep everyone safe. I have had multiple opportunities to read “Mangos for Max” at different preschools and elementary schools. After I read the story, I have been able to engage in questions about the book, about allergies, and just interact with this young audience to help reiterate keeping everyone safe. I encourage all parents of children in preschool and elementary school to go in to the classroom and read a story about food allergies. I have had a very positive experience in educating this way.

Why did you decide to get involved with FARE in particular?

I have been a big fan and supporter of FARE. The vision of FARE is to make the world safe for people with food allergies. With a vision like this, it was a very easy decision for me to include FARE on a portion of my proceeds. This organization has done a wonderful job at educating the educators, providing resources, and funding research. I actually can’t think of a better organization to support!

What’s been the best part about publishing your book?

The best part about publishing my book is reading it to young children at the preschool and elementary school setting.  “Mangos for Max” has been a dream of mine. I wrote this story four years ago; it is finally a book and the adventures it has taken me on have been surreal. I have been able to read to preschoolers and talk with directors about food allergies and education. I feel so honored that I have had this opportunity to each others about food allergies.

Thank you, Jessica, for providing a new resource to parents, children, and teachers, to help educate children about food allergies!

If you would like to purchase “Mangos for Max,” visit Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mangos-Max-Dr-Jessica-St-Louis/dp/1477602070.

FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champion: David Stotarczyk

friedelIf there are 6 million kids with food allergies in the U.S., that means there are also millions of “food allergy grandpas.” Jordan Friedel’s grandfather David recently showed us how, with simple and earnest outreach, a community can pull together to support a worthy cause.

David is the president of his local Communication Workers Association union in Detroit. While his fellow union members know him as typically being “all business,” at a recent meeting he stood at the podium in the name of food allergy awareness, wearing his “No Nuts for Jordan” t-shirt instead of his usual CWA Local 4050 shirt (“No Nuts for Jordan” is the Friedel family’s team name for the FARE Walk in Columbus, OH). He shared the story of a recent tragedy that deeply touched the food allergy community, the death of 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi, and then told them all about his own granddaughter Jordan who lives every day with life-threatening nut allergies. He explained that he was walking in the FARE Walk to help raise money to find a cure.

friedel2He held up an envelope and said, “If each of you could spare one dollar, together we could add $150 to this important cause.” To his surprise, every member of the union lined up to donate and he ended up collecting $274! With the love and support of his family members, Jordan’s team was the top fundraiser in Columbus, contributing more than $2,700!

To register for a walk in your area, visit www.foodallergywalk.org.

FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champion: Stephanie Sorkin

Nutley_coverEvery night, in households around the world, parents and children bond as they share bedtime stories. For Stephanie Sorkin, a mom from Long Island, NY, this cherished family tradition led to the creation of a picture book, “Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel,” which teaches children about food allergies. All of the author’s proceeds from the sale of the book go to FARE. We asked Stephanie to tell us about the inspiration for Nutley and her involvement with FARE.

What is your connection to food allergies?

I have three daughters with food allergies. My 6-year-old has multiple allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, mustard, flaxseed, sesame, and canola oil.  My 7-year-old is allergic to avocados, and my 10-year-old suddenly became allergic to all pitted fruit and carrots about a year ago.

Tell us about your book. How did you think of the idea? Why did you decide to write it? 

My book, “Nutley, the Nut-free Squirrel,” is about a squirrel with a nut allergy. The book is upbeat and whimsical, and the message of awareness and acceptance resonates with parents, teachers, and children. It even includes a recipe for nut-free banana bread! I’m getting amazing reviews from both the food allergy community and those without allergies.

The story came to me one night, as I often make up my children’s bedtime stories. My kids loved it! I decided to write it down, perfect it, and eventually felt compelled to publish it. Next, I realized that I had an incredible fundraising opportunity on my hands. I figured, who wouldn’t purchase a book when 100 percent of the author’s proceeds were going to food allergy research and education?

How can others get involved?

There are many ways to get involved. The most simple and direct way would be to purchase the book on Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. You can donate a book to a local hospital or school. You can share the news through social media – let everyone know about the book and that 100 percent of the author’s proceeds will be donated. You can tell your children’s school and local libraries about the book. If you own a store or a friend is a retailer, you can sell the book! Nutley is available wholesale through all of the major distributors.

How did you decide to get involved with FARE?

I chose FARE as the recipient of my fundraising efforts because I felt that the organization was a leader in the food allergy community. It seemed as if FARE was a household name…everyone in and out of the food allergy community had heard of the organization. FARE always has the most up-to-the-minute information available. I felt confident that the money raised will be put to good use.

What has been the best part about publishing your book?

So many amazing things have happened since I’ve published Nutley, I really don’t know where to start. If I had to narrow it down to the best part, I’d say it’s the heartfelt responses that I’m getting from teachers, parents and students. Parents have told me that their child with food allergies feels empowered. This brings tears to my eyes! Parents of non-allergic children have told me that they were so proud of their child’s response to the book—that  they were moved by the message and wanted to know how they can help people and if they could give things away to charity. Students have written to me saying that it’s their favorite book. Teachers have breathed a sigh of relief—they now have a learning tool to open the floor for discussions about allergies and helping others. I’m thoroughly looking forward to what the future holds for my book and for the awareness and acceptance that it can bring.

To learn more or to purchase Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel, please visit Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com.

FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champion: David Serle

serleFood allergy moms and dads are often compared to superheroes: constantly on guard, protecting their kids and sometimes saving the day or even a life. But they’re also human, and can make mistakes. A mistake that David Serle made with his daughter Emma inspired him to start a project that is not only raising funds for FARE, but is also helping him to grow closer to his daughter and inspiring others.

It started one day while David was trying to help Emma become more independent and make breakfast for herself. In his haste, he pulled the wrong box of waffles from the freezer. The waffles contained wheat and egg, both of which Emma is allergic. David’s wife took Emma to the hospital to treat her reaction, and luckily Emma recovered, but David was devastated by his error.

As a way to apologize and show Emma through his actions that he was sorry, David decided to take on a challenge: to “Eat Like Emma” for 10 weeks. For every week that he avoids gluten, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and shellfish, he will donate $5 to FARE.

Even more remarkable, David has recruited others to “Eat Like Emma.” Seven weeks after starting the challenge, 25 people have taken a pledge to change their diet along with him. We asked David to tell us more about his idea:

What is your connection to food allergies?

My 8-year-old daughter is allergic to wheat/gluten, egg, all nuts, sesame and shellfish.

Tell us about your fundraiser. How did you think of the idea?

Mostly from guilt. I felt horrible and instead of just saying sorry, I wanted to make sure this never happened again. I wanted to say sorry through action, not just words. So I came up with the idea to make a Facebook page and challenge myself, as well as others, to try to eat like Emma for one week.

How can others get involved?

They can share their stories on www.eatlikeemma.com or they may challenge themselves to eat like Emma for one week.

Why did you decide to get involved with FARE in particular?

I do the FARE Walk for Food Allergy every year in Miami and I really love the resources and education that FARE provides.

What’s been the best part about running this event/fundraiser?

Bringing awareness to people who would not otherwise know how serious food allergies can be. By educating and bringing awareness to food allergies, maybe the bullying and the rolling of eyes will stop when ordering at restaurants and asking for ingredients. Food allergies are not a choice.

Thank you to David and his supporters for their success thus far. If you’d like to “Eat Like Emma,” please visit www.eatlikeemma.com or contact your regional office for more information on how to set up a campaign of your own!

FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champion: Mike Monroe

Think about the last time you went to the gym or out for a run – how long did you exercise? Thirty minutes? One hour? Now picture yourself sitting down at a rowing machine and not stopping for 24 hours straight. That is what Mike Monroe – food allergy dad, extreme athlete and former Marine – will attempt to accomplish on May 17. Mike hopes to break the indoor rowing machine record for his age/weight, which will require him to row 276,917 meters, with the goal of raising $50,000 to benefit FARE.

We asked Mike a few questions about his event to kick off a new series of blog posts that will highlight some of our FARE Food Allergy Fundraising Champions. Over the years, our supporters have organized some incredible fundraisers in support of food allergy education, advocacy, awareness and research. We’ll be posting their stories periodically to highlight their contributions and show innovative ways that you can get involved with raising funds for and awareness about food allergies.

What is your connection to food allergies?
My 8-year-old son, Miles, has severe food allergies. He is allergic to wheat, milk, eggs and nuts. He is an amazing little boy and it breaks my heart when he gets upset about being different.

Tell us about your fundraiser. How did you think of the idea?
I am going to row on an indoor rowing machine for 24 hours. I want to try to break the known record for my age/weight class. I thought of the idea because I wanted to raise money to help with clinical trials for kids with food allergies. I wanted to do something that was just crazy enough that it would get people’s attention and make them want to donate. I also wanted to do something that was new to me so I could challenge myself.

How can others get involved?
There are a few ways:

  1. You can go to my website and make a donation. I am trying to raise $50,000 in donations and every little bit helps.   
  2. You can row alongside me!  On the website, you can sign up to “Participate.”  For a $50 donation you can row for 30 minutes to show your support. 
  3. You can simply spread the word via friends and family.  Share the web link, post to Facebook and Twitter, etc. 
  4. Visit the Sport&Health Club in Old Town Alexandria between noon on Friday, May 17 and noon on Saturday, May 18 and cheer me on a bit. 

Why did you decide to get involved with FARE in particular?

My wife and I attended a fundraiser last year that was hosted by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). I met Maria Acebal (former FAAN CEO) and Dr. Hemant Sharma, who is now Miles’ allergist. FARE has been amazing in helping me put this together.

What’s been the best part about running this event/fundraiser?
I am fueled to reach my fundraising goal by my son and the other kids out there who suffer from food allergies. We need to figure this out and hopefully my efforts will help.

We’d like to thank Mike for his generosity and invite you to visit his FARE webpage for more information. If you would like to take on a physical challenge (such as a marathon or 5K) on behalf of FARE or set up a campaign asking friends to give to FARE in lieu of special occasion gifts, please contact your regional office for more information.