Every year, landmarks around the country turn teal in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week. FARE would like to introduce you to the woman responsible for many of those building lightings, Stephanie Lowe. Stephanie, a food allergy mom, shared her story with us.
My name is Stephanie Lowe. In 2014, I started Turn It Teal to raise awareness about food allergies. We light buildings, bridges and the occasional waterfall in teal, the color of Food Allergy Awareness.
Four years ago, on my way home, I looked up at one of the tallest buildings in Cleveland, Ohio. It was lit up beautifully. I went home to look up why. I thought to myself, “I wonder if they would light it for food allergies?” An off-hand thought on a drive home led to the birth of what is now Turn It Teal. I was nervous the first time I submitted an application, and beyond ecstatic when they said yes. I was “just” an Allergy Mom trying to do something, anything, to get the word out about food allergies. I wanted to scream it from the rooftops, but this seemed like a more appropriate way to do it.
Our family was introduced to the world of food allergies when our oldest child was about six months old. My son is now ten, and has whittled down his list of life-threatening allergies to “only” four, plus FPIES (bananas), and Celiac disease. Through these last 10 years, I have become an expert in managing his allergies, and have been teaching him to do the same. I taught him to read labels as soon as he could, how to call to order his own prescriptions, and so on. He and 15 million Americans, 2.5 million Canadians, and others around the world are why I have made this our mission.
Turn It Teal has grown significantly over the last four years. I told my family and friends that my hope was just to have one more lighting than the previous year. The Terminal Tower in Cleveland was our first lighting, and will be participating again for the fourth year. We had three sites the second year, and last year was amazing with 25 lightings. Where are we this year? I am so happy to say we have over 40 lightings for 2017! We have grown from Cleveland, across the U.S. mainland, north to Canada, and we recently crossed the Pacific Ocean, adding both Hawaii and Australia to our map with the help of our friends in the worldwide allergy community.
Turn It Teal’s mission is to raise awareness about food allergies. I like to say that we are just a beacon, shining a light on this growing health problem. I am not an expert on allergies, so I leave the education to those who already do it so well. Organizations like FARE (and others) have medical advisors to be sure they are conveying the most accurate and up-to-date information about allergies. We do advocacy work locally and nationally, and will continue to do all we can to let people know that allergies are real, they are increasing, and they are not a joke. We are happy to point to organizations that can educate.
We will continue to work to bring awareness to food allergies, and to let people with allergies across the globe know that we care, and we are fighting for them.