For food allergy sufferers, every day can bring a variety of issues.
For one local girl, it also meant going to school every day wondering if today was the day a bully would send her into anaphylactic shock because he chooses to use an allergen as a threat against you.
Madeline Denison, 14, of Oriskany, deals with this type of fear on a daily basis.
“I face many challenges at school,” said Denison, who was diagnosed with a peanut allergy when she was 18 months old. “I have had several bullying incidents.” Denison said students sometimes put peanut wrappers near her book bag, hold peanuts near her face and ask if it’s what she’s allergic to, or have even texted her telling her to go eat a peanut.
As Food Allergy Awareness Week approaches May 13-19, the organizing committee of FARE’s CNY Food Allergy Heroes Walk is asking parents and teachers to educate their children about the real consequences of using food allergies as a bullying tactic. The committee, which is planning the sixth annual walk on Aug. 12 at SUNY Poly, asks parents and educators to utilize the resources offered on FARE’s website, www.foodallergy.org. Food Allergy Research and Education has a program called Be A Pal, which can help children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies.
“Sending a child to school with a severe food allergy feels like playing Russian roulette every day,” said Matthew Denison, Madeline’s father. “Just touching something that has peanut protein on it and then touching her mouth, Madeline could have a severe reaction.”
Madeline said her friends and their parents are very supportive. They are always careful about what they eat around her, and they always make sure she’s included, she said. Madeline has had times throughout her life that left her wondering why she couldn’t eat what everyone was eating.
“One of my biggest struggles is feeling left out when everyone else is going to restaurants that I cannot go to and eating things that I cannot eat,” she said.
Matthew and his wife, Michelle, said they got involved with the Food Allergy Heroes Walk because they want to educate more people about food allergies. Matthew is the owner of Impressions Limousine in Utica. Last year he even donated the services of his photo booth to help at the walk.
Madeline said her food allergy affects the entire family. Her 10-year-old sister Leah has to be careful about what she eats around Madeline, and she can’t get everything she wants at the store because the family doesn’t have any peanut products in their house.
“I hope that someday there is a cure for food allergies,” Madeline said, “because that would change so many people’s lives.”
How to take part in Food Allergy Awareness Week
As part of Food Allergy Awareness Week, on May 17 people can wear teal in support of those affected by food allergies. This will show the unity and size of the food allergy community. Share your photos on social media by using #TealTakeover. Also, the walk committee is planning a pasta dinner from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 18 at the New Hartford Presbyterian Church, 45 Genesee St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, and can either be purchased ahead of time by contacting a committee member or they can be purchased at the door.