As we launch the new Food Allergy Heroes Walk, we wanted to take a moment to recognize and chat with Denise Bunning who founded the first food allergy walk in 2004. Denise has been a key advocate and supporter for families with food allergy for the past 20 years. She launched her own support group for families with food allergy in the Chicago area, MOCHA, in 1997 and currently serves on the Board of Directors for FARE. We asked her to share her thoughts about food allergy, why she walks, and who her food allergy hero is.
FARE: What is your connection to food allergy?
Denise: My oldest son (23) has life threatening food allergies to treenuts – specifically pistachios and cashews. He outgrew milk at age 10 and egg at 17. He also has environmental allergies and mild asthma.
My younger son (20) has life-threatening food allergies to milk, treenuts, shellfish and fish. He also has Eosinophilic Esophagitis and a gastric tube. He can orally eat about 15 foods. He outgrew his egg allergy at age 7.
FARE: You founded the very first food allergy walk in Chicago back in 2004. What was that like, and how has the event changed over time?
My support group MOCHA (Mothers of Children Having Allergies) wanted to start a fundraiser that everyone could participate in safely. We had it in a local forest preserve. There were a group of us who dressed in costumes as the allergens for awareness (see attached photo). Since 2004, the Chicago Walk has been held in a few locations, and each year it gets better and better. We are proud that so many have decided to have walks around the country.
FARE: What are your thoughts about the new walk brand, Food Allergy Heroes Walk?
Denise: I’m a big believer in always trying to improve. I think this sends a great message.
FARE: Who are your food allergy heroes?
Denise: I have so many…
Every researcher, doctor, nurse, teacher, friend, family member, chef, waitress, babysitter who has helped keep my kids safe or improved their quality of life. But especially my sons and my husband. They inspire me.
FARE: Why is it important for people in Chicago to participate in the Walk event?
Denise: The Walk is a great way to get involved, increase awareness, and feel the passion and support from others who are “living it.”
FARE: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Denise: We can all make a difference working together to make FARE the best organization itcan be. Get involved. I’ve made some amazing friends, and hopefully have helped others by sharing our story.
Sign up for a Food Allergy Heroes walk in Chicago or in your area by visiting the new www.foodallergywalk.org.