As a food allergy mama, I have shed many a tear over fear for my son’s safety, lack of improvement at annual appointments, and for those moments he has to be left out. For the first time since the diagnosis of Owen’s allergies, I was able to cry tears of joy as a result of his allergies. These tears are not because any of his allergies have improved but rather from the loving support of his preschool and a dear fellow food allergy mama. Join me in the story of how Halloween, food allergies, an awesome preschool, and a teal pumpkin changed my life and lit a fire of advocacy in my heart.
The Challenge of Halloween for a Food Allergy Child
Halloween is my jam. As soon as October 1st rolls into town, my home practically turns into the Halloween aisles at Hobby Lobby. We do it big. We were the house that would give out handfuls of candy to every ghost, goblin, and witch who showed up at our door. None of that skimpy one piece of candy business. When our son Owen was 8 months old, we discovered he had multiple severe food allergies. We quickly realized our way of life and the experiences, like Halloween, we traditionally enjoyed were about to change big time.
When Owen turned two, we took him for his first trick or treating where he could walk up to doors. We knew he would not get to keep anything and as a two year old that was not a big deal. He had never eaten candy before and really didn’t have a concept of his allergies or what he was missing out on. The stressful part came into play when we had to awkwardly and continually explain house to house that he could not reach into the bowl because of his allergies. We had to politely ask them to just drop something in his bag. We knew his young age was in our favor but by the following year we would need a better plan to make trick or treating fun for him.
An Allergy Friendly Solution
While researching food allergy friendly trick or treating I stumbled across the Teal Pumpkin Project at www.foodallergy.org. The Teal Pumpkin Project was created to raise awareness of food allergies and make trick or treating inclusive and fun for all children during the Halloween season. After reading about this initiative I knew this was the solution for Owen and other food allergy kiddos in our circle. My children’s preschool, Foundations Academy, has always gone above and beyond to keep Owen safe and be as food allergy friendly as possible. If you have a food allergy child you know this is no small feat. At Foundations we hit the jackpot because another student joined who was the same age as Owen and had very similar allergies. This type of relationship was like hitting the mega millions for Owen and myself. It meant having a new tribe who completely understood what our life was like. This fellow mama, Liz, was in the same boat. We bonded over our boys and also knew that advocacy and education were of high importance. We both firmly believe that the more you know the better you can be.
We reached out to our preschool director and asked if the school would be willing to allow Liz and myself to read food allergy books to each class, do Teal Pumpkin Project crafts, and send literature home to all the parents informing them of what the Teal Pumpkin Project was. We were met with an immediate yes! Now in addition to a good holiday decoration I love a good theme. You know this Mama busted out matching teal pumpkin shirts and shoes for our presentation. I might be in the dictionary next to the definition of extra and I have zero shame in my game.
We marched into the school ready to spread awareness and were met with an amazing display of unity, empathy, and inclusive support. Every single student, teacher, and staff member had on a Teal Pumpkin Project shirt. I’m not talking about something they ordered. Nope. These hardworking teachers and staff handmade shirts for their classes. The infants even had onesies with teal pumpkins painted on them. Our hearts exploded! Talk about a wave of emotions hitting you. Collectively Liz and I have spent many a conversation worried about our kids feeling different or left out. This gesture was healing. The type of life breathing gesture that reaches your soul. Pure joy and appreciation were the emotions we were overcome with.
We were blessed with the opportunity to share about the Teal Pumpkin Project with the school and also with the parents. Each parent was sent home with the instructions on how to implement an allergy friendly experience for trick or treaters. So, now I would also like to share the same 4 easy steps with you ::
- Provide non food treats for trick or treaters. Great examples are glow sticks, stickers, and bubbles.
- Place a teal pumpkin in front of your home to indicate to passersby that you have non-food treats available.
- Add your home to the Teal Pumpkin Project map at https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/map.
- Spread the word! Share the Teal Pumpkin Project with your friends and family.
By simply offering a non food treat option for your trick or treaters, you have the ability to make Halloween safe and fun for all children and touch a food allergy parent’s heart. If you have children then this presents you with a wonderful opportunity to teach them that helping others feel included is always a rewarding experience. It may seem small, but I can guarantee you that your efforts will never be lost on me or my child.
About Laura A.
Laura is a small town girl who loves her family fiercely. She is the wife to Mark and the mama to Amelia and Owen. She is a Jesus loving, bright lipstick wearing, food allergy advocating, lover of cooking ball of sass! If you see Laura rolling in her minivan and dancing like a lunatic it is because her playlist is cycling between Ludacris and Lauren Daigle. Because balance. If Laura is not with family or at work you can almost always find her at Hobby Lobby or Target, getting her craft on.