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.