by Jennifer Lofton, Memphis 2016 FARE Walk for Food Allergy Chair
For me, and my then 10-month-old daughter, it all began with a bite of banana. A regular snack, like so many before – a few slices of banana placed on her high chair tray. My voracious eater gobbled them up happily. But these bits of her favorite fruit were not like all the others before. I had thoughtlessly (the last time I would ever use this word when describing feeding her) used the same knife I had been using to make myself the southern staple – a peanut butter and banana sandwich – for lunch.
She had her first taste of peanuts, just that tiny bit that transferred from the knife to the banana, two months before the recommended minimum age, and yes – her first reaction. It was mild. The kind only a mother would notice – her face was just a little flushed. Even her dad, who has food allergies himself, thought I was seeing something that was not there. I tried to convince myself that he and the pediatrician were right – it was a coincidence, another overreaction from a hyper-vigilant first-time mom. Six months later, I mustered the courage to give her a small bite of peanut butter on a cracker. There was no mistaking this one. It was terrifying, heartbreaking, and soul-crushing. It was what I now know was an anaphylactic reaction, and our real journey into managing food allergies began.
Many months later, after the grief subsided and I had the mental energy to begin the “research everything” phase of being a food allergy mom, I discovered Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). FARE’s website held a vast array of information that I needed, and has been an important resource in my arsenal since. When I realized that not only was FARE useful for me in my day-to-day life but also focused on more long-term initiatives, such as funding research for new treatments, it struck me how important it would be to give back. Later that year, the inaugural Memphis FARE Walk for Food Allergy took place, and my family and friends joined together with other families to raise a few dollars and take a lovely stroll overlooking the Mighty Mississippi River in solidarity and support of FARE. I had been doing what I needed to do for months to keep my daughter safe, and now I was able to do something to support FARE in its mission to help 15 million more Americans improve their quality of life while living with food allergies and to provide hope for new treatments.
So why should everyone affected by food allergies support FARE and the FARE Walk for Food Allergy? Because the money raised from these walks all around the country (more than $24 million over the last 12 years) is used for vital initiatives such as:
I am proud that I, my family, and our supportive friends have made a small impact on FARE’s ability to continue this work.
The fourth annual Memphis FARE Walk for Food Allergy will be held on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the beautiful Mud Island River Park. It is always a fun day of family-friendly entertainment, activities, vendors, meeting other food allergy families, and strolling through Mud Island – a perfect opportunity for the kids to experience the Riverwalk and meet other kids with food allergies. Oh, and t-shirts! Who doesn’t love a free t-shirt? All children age 16 and under will receive a shirt, and anyone else who raises $100+ for their team will also receive one!
Please register for the walk, create a team, and help raise the funds that will truly make a difference for our kids. Together, we can do our part to help say FAREwell to Food Allergies and have some fun in the process!
Visit FAAM’s Walk Page for details on getting started, fundraising information, links and to volunteer. This page will be updated as walk day approaches with information and answers to your questions. Contact us with any questions you have or if you need help registering.
About the Author: Jennifer Lofton is a food allergy mom, walk chair, and member of FAAM. We thank Jennifer for writing as a guest author on Food for Thought and sharing her passion for the Memphis FARE Walk for Food Allergy!
Food for Thought is the blog for the Food Allergy Alliance of the Mid-South. FAAM's mission is to provide food allergy support, education, advocacy, fellowship & fun for Memphis, TN and surrounding areas.
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