Things have changed since the first time Tracy Hurley and her family attended the FARE Food Allergies walk six years ago.
“One out of every 13 kids has food allergies, so more people are touched by it directly now. Maybe a nephew or a niece, or brother, sister or a classmate has it, so I think people are understanding it more. The millennials have grown up with it now. If you go to a restaurant and somebody 18, 19, 20, is ready to take your order, it’s not this foreign concept,” said Hurley, 40, of Snyder, whose 10-year-old son, Conlen, has allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and dairy.
This year’s 1.2-mile Heroes Walk will start at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 5 at LaSalle Park, 1 Porter Ave., on the West Side.
Register in advance at fare.foodallergy.org/buffalo or on-site starting at 9 a.m. the day of the walk.
Hurley and her husband, P. Emmett Hurley, an oculofacial plastic surgeon, also have two other children.
Lena, 8, has no food allergies, and Grady, 6, was allergic to sesame seeds and eggs, but has outgrown both.
Q. What can people who attend the Food Allergy Research & Education walk expect?
It’s pretty much like a little festival. There’s going to be an 18-person video game van. We’re going to have a Laser Tag van, as well. We’re going to have a wild bird show, the Zoomobile, a rock climbing wall, face-painting and manicures for kids. Theater of Youth is doing a craft table. It’s really a nice walk and it’s breezy along the water, so even if it’s hot, people are nice and cool.
Whole Foods is going to be there because they’re opening soon. There’s going to be Skeeter Cookies. We’ll have samples of several allergy-free products. It helps people new to the food allergy community know what options are available.
Proceeds go to FARE food allergy research and education. Both my sons were allergic to eggs. ... Before FARE’s research, doctors would say “Don’t eat any eggs ever.” Now they're saying 90 percent of kids grow out of egg and dairy allergies. If you start this early – as long as the allergist clears them and they do the food challenge in the office. That has changed my friends’ lives and my own, and FARE did the research to show that you can build up a kind of immunity to some allergies.
Q. How is your son learning to protect himself as he gets older?
He’s more aware of his surroundings. He’ll say, ‘Mom, I was at this camp and there was a girl eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I moved my seat.’ He also has become aware of his circumstances. We usually have him wear his EpiPen on his back in a little pouch. We want it to always be on him...
We make him order his own food now, as well. We’ve told him it’s his responsibility. We’ve coached him, ‘Make sure you look the server right in the eye, talk really loud, make sure they understand you.’ So when he goes out with my mom or my in-laws, I feel comfortable because I know he can order for himself.
He’s going away to camp for two weeks in Canada and it’s a big thing for us. We’ve talked to him about being aware. My nephew is going with him, so we’re going to talk with him about what an allergic reaction looks like, how to give Conlen his EpiPen.
Q. Where should families with a child who has allergies turn for support in Western New York?
To the Greater Buffalo Food Allergy Alliance (gbfoodallergy.org). It’s a support group that meets once a month during most months. They usually have one or two allergists come and talk about the most recent research. They’ll sometimes have a child psychologist come; children who have had reactions can have post-traumatic stress. It’s also nice to connect with other parents. There’s also a Facebook group. People might say, “I was just at BJs and they have nut-free cupcakes" and they’ll post a picture.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon