Would you Rappel Down a Building for Food Allergies?

OE_logo_original [Converted]Two food allergy moms are doing just that as participants in one of a series of fundraisers called Over the Edge. Happening in four locations this fall, a group of adventurous souls will be rappelling down the side of a high-rise building, all to benefit FARE’s food allergy education, advocacy, awareness and research programs.

We’ll have events in Arlington, Va. on Nov. 16; Atlanta on Nov. 23; Tampa on Dec. 7; and Houston on Dec. 14.

We recently chatted with two moms who are bravely going Over the Edge for FARE, Mary Kirkman of Atlanta and Natasha Perkins of Vienna, Va. It only took a matter of days for the women’s friends and family to contribute enough donations to send them over the edge! Below is an excerpt from their interview, but you can read more about Mary and Natasha in the next issue of FARE’s quarterly newsletter, out next month.

How are you affected by food allergies?

Our 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed just after her first birthday with multiple food allergies. We’ve been through four anaphylactic reactions in her short life. Food allergy awareness and education has become our passion. I’ve enjoyed chairing the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Atlanta, GA, working with our school district to stock epinephrine and educating parents and children whenever possible. I know that our experience can help others.

natashaNatasha:  My 8-year-old daughter has multiple food allergies.  She was diagnosed as an infant.  As she has gotten older, her symptoms and reactions have become more severe.  She has had an anaphylactic reaction to milk.  She also has severe eczema that makes her miserable.  Managing her allergies is a daily, stressful and time-consuming effort.  We have to plan her meals and eliminate her exposures. Grocery shopping is very time-consuming since we have to read and re-read labels. It is challenging to just get a quick bite to eat since she cannot eat at many restaurants and we have to be very careful at others. Our food bill is much higher now as well, because the foods she can eat are more expensive.  Her social life is impacted because we cannot just send her with others to eat or stay overnight. She has to bring her own food to parties and events and many times she just doesn’t have the treats other kids do. Many of her friends’ parents are scared to have her over because they are scared of the epinephrine auto-injector that is her constant companion. Zoe handles the disappointments of not being able to share in a treat very well, but I can see that she is saddened and it breaks my heart.

How did you talk to others to gain support for your Over the Edge fundraising campaign?
Mary:  I went friend to friend and asked them to “send me over the edge.” Once I explain what that means exactly and that I’m doing it for Olivia they are extremely supportive and ask if they can come watch. Of course they also think it’s the craziest thing they’ve ever heard!

Natasha:  Zoe has lifelong allergies that require a significant amount of effort to manage.  She is on the list to participate in a clinical trial, however, such trials need to be funded.  FARE supports trials like this one.

How have your family and friends reacted when you have told them you’re rappelling down the side of a high-rise building?
Mary:  Everyone is VERY excited for me and can’t wait to come watch. However, most of them have told me that I’m completely crazy! Olivia can’t wait to watch me.

Natasha:  Most have joked that I have lost my mind. Others have said that a mother’s love knows no bounds. Most have thought it is really cool.

What would you say in encouragement to others considering Over the Edge?
Mary:  I would say – come on, it will be awesome!! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity! Besides this is by far the easiest way to raise money for food allergy that I’ve ever come across!

Natasha:  Just go for it. Twenty minutes of facing a fear is nothing compared to the constant fear that people with food allergies and the families have. What Zoe addresses daily is much more challenging.

You can sign up to go over the edge by visiting www.overtheedgefare.org. If you’re not a thrill-seeker yourself, challenge a friend, family member

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 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!


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 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.