|Photo courtesy of RedSneakers.org|
This is Oakley Debbs. Although I never met Oakley, I consider him and his family to be the most amazing people that walk the earth. Oakley's life was stopped short due to an anaphylactic reaction. He was not my son and his family is not related to me but I consider them to be a part of my family. You see, as a food allergy mother to a son who is allergic to peanuts, eggs, shellfish and watermelon I can almost feel the terror and helplessness of losing a child. I say almost because, although it touches my heart so closely, I can never truly know how this feels. The Debbs family has lost a son and I have not. I would not be able to lift myself up if this happened to my son. The fact that this family is allowing their strength to be the strength for others is a super power. Their dedication to educate others, provide comfort for others and to share with others keeps Oakley alive within all of our hearts and minds. Many of us are asked If you died tomorrow, would you have accomplished something amazing during your life? But how many people can actually answer that what is even more important is what you accomplish AFTER your life. "This child of mine, he was a rock star, he was a good, good kid. And always in my heart of hearts, I knew that he would make a difference in his life, I just didn't know it would be after he passed away. So that's a big part of my driving force- the legacy of Oakley." - Merrill Debbs, Oakley's mom and co-founder of Red Sneakers For Oakley.
The Only Angel in Shoes Oakley's family uses the memory of Oakley's habit of wearing red shoes as a symbol of support and awareness. They saw a need for our food allergy community and rose to our side so that our families would be safer. How many unnecessary deaths have been caused by an anaphylactic reaction that could have most likely been prevented if food allergies were explained a bit more? How many times have you heard a person commenting "I was never told this would happen so quickly' or "I didn't know the label said it contained an allergen"- unless the people that you are interacting with every day have the correct knowledge about how to prevent a reaction, they will not understand how to save more lives. There is no assuming. There is no time to assume. There is only education, support and preparedness. Food allergies are so often pushed into the background because it is an invisible disease- until it's not. The power of the color of a pair of shoes makes us all more visible and when we are visible, people open their eyes. It's a small step but it's a beginning and we need to continue.
"Red is the Color of Extremes. It's the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger and adventure. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire and blood- energy and primal forces - most of red's symbolism today arises from its powerful associations in the past." (at Colormatters.com ) I think this accurately depicts life with food allergies as well as the growing strength within our community. We choose power, we choose energy and we choose to be extreme because we know that is what will help save more lives. Oakley's spirit truly drives us. And because food allergies have different extremes themselves, I wanted to share some of the touching testimonials on RedSneakers.org in hopes that anyone reading this will understand that they are not alone.
To the Debbs Family-
Thank you for what you do for all of us, each and every day. I applaud your bravery and I admire your willingness to help rather than hurt. I have shared "Food allergy support; this is a vast, never-ending place where people from all over the world meet. This is a family that you never knew existed and that you didn't think would ever be a part of your life." I am so very grateful to have you as part of my family even before I knew that I needed you ~