Thursday, July 12, 2018

Does Nature Boost the Immune System & Beat Common Seasonal Allergies?

Today's blog post is a guest post written by Harper Reid- a freelance writer based in New Zealand. Harper approached me, asking if she could share her thoughts on seasonal allergies and what some may be able to do to improve them. Since I am all about sharing, feel free to leave a comment about what has or has not worked for you.

Photo Credit: Alexandru Tudorache via Unsplash under License

There's no worse springtime experience than  being excited to see flowers bloom and dusting off swimsuits for the summer ahead, only to start sniffling every time you so much as glance outside. If you suffer from seasonal allergies every year, you may be interested in knowing how nature can help you cope with these pesky occurrences.

If you have allergies that are more serious than the occasional bout of hay fever, you should see a doctor for medical advice. But if your allergies aren't significant, you may want to try the following natural tips to boost your immune system.

Make a change in your diet & lifestyle- eat more natural foods As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. This is especially true for people who struggle with recurring allergies. Eating unhealthy food means that your body isn't getting the nourishment that it needs, which means it cannot protect you properly.

Try to eat natural, organic foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible. The same goes for exercise: if you don't look after your body by way of exercise, it won't be as strong as it could be or function as well as necessary to resist allergens. Try an hour of exercise at least three or four times a week. You may notice a difference in the severity of your allergy symptoms as you grow stronger and healthier.

Photo Credit: silviarita via Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons License
Improve your gut health If you need more reasons to change your diet to something more natural, there is a popular theory that gut health (by way of immune system) is inextricably linked to seasonal allergies. While this idea requires more research, many allergy sufferers have reported a decrease in allergy symptoms after making changes, so it may be worth looking into gut-friendly diet options if you find your seasonal allergies especially difficult.

The theory states that to improve your gut health, you must reduce inflammation in your gut. Limit your dairy intake if it causes you problems and avoid eating foods with too many preservatives or sugar. When your gut is healthier, your immune system will function more smoothly. Natural foods win again!

Build up your immune system by spending time outdoors  The best defense against pesky pollen is to boost your immune system. Spending time in nature is good for everyone in the family for a multitude of reasons- including that it may be able to help reduce allergy symptoms.

If you're having trouble getting the kids off the couch and into the great outdoors, why not choose a fun family bonding activity to motivate them? You might like to try going for hikes together or spending a day picnicking and playing outdoor sports.

Photo Credit: Micah Hallahan via Unsplash under License

There are plenty of benefits to reconnecting with nature too: decreased anxiety levels and a better chance at getting your daily dose of Vitamin D to name just a few. If you're outside, try walking or running barefoot to strengthen your immune system and to connect with your beautiful natural surroundings. If you can improve your immune system's functionality, you will likely have reduced allergy symptoms when spring next rolls around- and having quality time with the family is a great bonus!

Nature is really a miracle. If you listen to your body and make productive changes, you will be a step closer to banishing those irritating allergies for good. Remember, these tips are for people suffering minor seasonal allergies- if you are suffering from more serious allergies, always consult with a doctor.

Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who enjoys relaxing out in nature. On sunny days, she can often be found meditating in her backyard or going on hiking trips with friends. Check out more of Harper's work on Tumblr

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Gluten Free In Winston

I have been a long time event geek; I love going to them, I love meeting people and talking to them, I love finding out about new products and seeing products that I have known about as well. Although I don't mind traveling to events, I was so excited to hear that this year the Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event was hosting an event in my area of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Even better, I was asked to be an event speaker and a vendor in addition to being a blogger team member. A lot of hats to wear but I was more than willing to wear them all with pride and to do the best that I could do for the attendees. More importantly, one of my favorite things to do is to share while I am at the event because just as I am stoked about being able to sample items and bring home a bag o'swag, I feel that it is just as nice to reciprocate and have something to give back. Call it an extra smile on someones face or that look of yum while they are tasting a new item- whatever it is, I am all about sharing.

Sharing is another form of support and even comfort within the food allergy community.I know that we tend to say "Why is everything always about food?!" but this is just life. Food is involved in so many areas of our lives, why should having food allergies limit what we can eat? Yes, stay away from the foods that are allergen triggers but do not stay away from foods just for the sake of staying away from food. Embrace food. Just embrace the right foods and embrace the expanding circle of how you find those safe foods. The Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event offers just that (Really I'm just an added bonus, lol).

First, There Was Food The blogger team always meets the night before the event to eat, be merry and get a chance to meet the other bloggers. I enjoy this ritual because once you are at the event and it's go time, I find it's difficult to find the bloggers let alone have enough time to speak with them while also speaking with the event vendors. And I am always up for a nice dinner out. This year's was hosted at Midtown Cafe & Dessertery. I am happy to report that Midtown Cafe offers a gluten free menu and our waitress went above and beyond in making sure to check, double check and repeat everyones allergens and menu options. I got to catch up with Tarah aka Allergic Traveler and a newbie Chelsea Jones - Gluten Free Chelsea.  Chelsea had a bunch of questions and braved my sense of humor so you know she is a good egg. (....egg! Is she also allergic to eggs?!)

Then There Were Samples The Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event gives each attendee a bag upon registration for their samples and the entire event is a type of "I'm going to just wander through and eat this, and this, and maybe this...but oh, look at what they have!" My table was filled with giveaways from wonderful companies that also wanted to partake in the sharing so anyone who stopped to say hello had multiple samples to eat as well as take home items. More thank you's going out to SunButter, The Greater Knead, TummyDrops, Gluten Free & More Magazine, MadeGood FoodsSeabuckWonders and Free2b Foods. Attendees were truly so excited to be able to enjoy samples as well as having so many items to bring home with them. NutriDaughter manned the sample area and at one point told me that she "Feels so adult, like I work for The Greater Knead." I enjoyed watching the smiles appear on everyone's face when so many of them said "I can eat all of this!" Again- food, it's what life is all about. Enjoy it.

There Were Slides I was thrilled to share my presentation on "Food Allergies Going Beyond the Box". My discussion covered how I have found different ways to use allergy-friendly products other than as directed on the package. This included how to reuse the box itself, budgeting tips and how to turn food flops into delicious recipes that your family will eat while you are not wasting the food that you thought was damaged. With so many other presenters at the event, I was honored to share my knowledge of how to use your foods.

There Were Smiles I know that so many people tend to say Come find me, say hello. I love to meet all of you! but honestly- I truly mean it. I understand that I would not be who and where I am without those who have become a part of my journey. I know that each and every person that takes the time to read my blog or check out my social media pages is a part of why I am able to journey onward. So when someone who has been a page follower for many years shows up at the Winston Salem Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event, you know that I am going to be the person who is giving out hugs. I had the honor of finally getting to meet Darlene after knowing her virtually for years. She has been an amazing page member, has taken the time to share her personal stories and tips with others and I am truly blessed to have been able to speak with her in person. These people are my stepping stones, these people are my reasons to get up every day and continue to help in any way that I can and these are people that I am proud to call my extended family.

I want to thank Nikki Everett for adding Winston Salem, NC to her already jam-packed event schedule this year. She is an amazing woman with a bunch of energy that I wish I had half of! In case nobody else has said it, thank you for sharing with our local community! I took a bunch of event pictures- so many that I thought it would be easier to share them as a photo album (here) as opposed to a never-ending blog post that most of you may just get bored of. Be sure and check the Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness website for all of their event locations as well as the other event vendors and sponsors that included Simply Gluten Free Magazine, Arbonne, Beaches Resorts, Brasstown Chocolate, Dolci Di Maria, Elizabeth King Humphrey, Enjoy Life Foods, F4L Diva Bars, Garden Lites, Garnet Rose Soap Company, Gigi's Cupcakes, Good Health Greensboro, Greensboro Gluten Free Support Group, Health 1st of the Triad, Henna & Airbrush Body Work, Henry's Kettle Corn, Honky Tonk Smokehouse, JP's Pastry, Justin Case Bee Products, King Arthur Flour, Lundberg Family Farms, Made Good Foods, Maleleuca, Norm's Farms, Norwex, Passanante Foods, Pure Haven, Scented Balance Inc, Scout & Cellar Clean-Crafted Wine, Swerve Sweetener, The Breathing Room, Therapeutiks, Tito's Vodka, Vegan Value Card, WOWButter, Young Living Essential Oils and Zilis.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Don't Go Nuts, It's A Re-Launch

Do you remember the first time that you found a product that you thought actually tasted good and your kids like them too?I do. But I am a mom so I may be biased. Moms remember weird things that may not seem relevant to some but for us, all of those little details are important. Our mom brains suck in all of the information that may save us time and energy in the future so for us, it's like a mental superpower. I first saw the Don't Go Nuts products at the 2014 Food Allergy Blogger Conference. They handed them out and honestly, there were so many samples that I tucked it into my take home bag (Nothing personal Don't Go Nuts people). In the midst of unpacking and sorting safe goodies, NutriDaughter pulled a bar out and asked if she could have it. She has raved about them ever since.

Flash forward four years to now: I was asked to try their new re-launched bars Gorilla Power, Whitewater Chomp and Blueberry Blast that are now USDA certified organic and the Blueberry Blast flavor was reinvented. Did I have to fend off greedy little hands when the boxes arrived? Yes. (Well....not so little anymore but that's another story). NutriDaughter was ripping open the boxes, she was there when I turned around and you can bet her hand was out as soon as I took a bar out of the box. Not that I teased her but.... yeah, I teased her.

Whitewater Chomp bars - these were interesting as I almost taste a hint of a peanut butter-like taste (which, of course, is impossible). Other than that, they taste like a typical crispy bar but slightly chewier which is good, so no cracked or chipped teeth from biting into something rock hard. I can't be the only one who passes on ultra-crunchy granola bars, can I? As you can see, they were a hit at the local pool. Anything grab and pack is a good thing. Not to mention, most of us budget and bringing a snack versus purchasing a snack is (almost) always cheaper.

The Gorilla Power bars have chocolate chips in them so I may be just a little biased as I am a definite chocolate lover. Pair it with chocolate, I was off to a great start. There is a slight taste of coconut in these bars. There is a good balance of chocolate- not too much, not too little. Nothing worse than skimpy chocolate, right?! And I did not notice any chocolate leakage....ok, that may sound icky and unappetizing but (again) as a mom, I am pro-clean, finger-licking snacks vs. anything that leaves smudges on clothing and towels and anything else that is touched during the snacking event. Those are snacks I avoid. Those are snacks that mess up my white towels and make me not want to buy them.

The final bar I got to try was the Blueberry Blast. For some reason, I found it to be chewy with just a little bit of crunch...maybe it was the same on the others, not sure. To me, it tasted like a blueberry cookie in bar form ( a positive). Overall, a good little granola bar that I would definitely eat again. Sometimes when you need something sweet, a bar that has some heartier ingredients are better than a cookie.

What I liked When I read the ingredients, multiple words organic. Every single ingredient starts with organic. This is a huge plus for me- I really feel that the more organic foods we use, the better. The texture was good and the consistency was good (not dry, not too gooey, no weird chalky aftertaste). I liked the size because, although one may argue the bar size could be a tad larger, they are actually pretty filling.

What I wish was a bit different Dear Don't Go Nuts people, let me say first that I like your products and I truly appreciate that you asked me to try these out. This being said, my wish list of things for you to maybe consider 1) I found the bars to be a little too sweet/sugary 2) Any thoughts of looking into a facility that does not also process dairy 3) any thoughts of (trying) a dairy free bar for those that contain dairy? I wouldn't suggest these things if I didn't wish more people could also enjoy your bars.

Regardless of my wish list, try them (as long as the ingredients are safe for you). They are a good little bar! You can find Don't Go Nuts on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (Ugh, how did I not know this?!), Instagram and YouTube. They also have a handy dandy store locator here or just look for their adorable logo. Hugs to Don't Go Nuts for thinking of me and sending me the samples!

*As always, no payment accepted for the product review except for the products themselves as my opinion is always my own.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Gluten Free Ticket Giveaway

I am an event geek, plain and simple. I love meeting people, vendors and allergy-friendly products, hearing presentations and the samples....I admittedly hoard samples. But why? For those of you who have never been to an event that caters to those with food allergies, let me show you my world of blogging, eating and product hoarding (I say hoard but it's really taking new product home to try them, stashing some for future sharing and giveaways and a few..well, more than a few for my family). Picture this and then join me on June 2nd at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. You will notice the handy dandy giveaway link below because I have six tickets to giveaway to entice you even more.

Get Your Swag On Did I mention the swag? don't know what swag is?! Ok, swag is a bag of free samples that you get when you check in at the event. So for a very budget-friendly Saturday ($10 adults, Children under 13 FREE and $8 for Seniors & Military with ID at the door) you immediately get a nice bag of goodies that you will also use to place other samples or items that you can purchase at the event. How is this sounding to you so far? Think about it- going to an event where you can bring the entire family, get free stuff, sample and eat while you walk through and find out about products that you may not even know existed. I'd say it's a win-win. Here's what you need to know-
June 2nd 2018
10 Am - 3 PM
Home & Garden Building
421 27th Street NW
Winston-Salem, NC 27105

Why Am I So Excited About This Event? Although I am an event geek, I am also picky about not wanting to travel too far so when I heard that this year's Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event is going to be in my hometown of Winston-Salem I felt like an event geek gone to heaven! Grab a pen and paper (ugh, it's the year 2018 Nutrimom nobody except you still writes things down!) or take a screenshot then visit the official website for complete details. I recommend that you consider ordering your tickets online to avoid standing in long line the day of the event. Event geek tip: long lines means you will not be one of the first to get the vendor samples and if you have kids, they don't like to wait either...just saying. OR chance it, enter my ticket giveaway below and see if you get a free ticket before you purchase them. Either way, I know all of the vendors will be excited to see you and speak with you.

Did I Mention That I Am Sharing Too? Not only am I honored to be a part of the event blogger team again but I will also have a vendor table and I will be presenting at this event. You may say How the heck are you going to do all of this Nutrimom and why? Simple- because I love sharing. I blog about the event because I want everyone to know why they should be there to learn more and stress less. I will have a vendor table because I love meeting everyone in person, I love sharing and I love helping. My table will offer information about me, what I do, how to order my ebook The Stepping Stones To Food Allergies and samples supplied by some of my favorite companies and products who also love to share. Samples will include SunButter, back issues of Gluten Free & More Magazine, MadeGood FoodsThe Greater Knead, free2b Foods SunCups, full size SeaBuckWonders facial cleanser and TummyDrops (thanks to all of the wonderful companies who sent product to share!) I will be presenting at 12:30 - 1:00 PM "Food Allergies: Going Beyond the Box" because I want to show everyone that allergy-friendly products are more than just as directed on the box (I'd give you a hint but I think you should come by and sit in on it for the full effect).

Ready To Enter For A Chance to Win Tickets?!
There are just a few rules I need you to read but then click away. Don't forget to share with others...maybe if they win, they will give you some of their swag.
  • My Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event ticket giveaway will begin on Tuesday May 22nd and end at Midnight Thursday May 24th EST 
  • Entries will be through Rafflecopter but sharing this blog link is always appreciated
  • None of anyone's entry information will be shared, spammed or sold because that is never what I am about
  • 6 Tickets (3 people will each get 2 entry tickets) will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter
  • Winners MUST be attending the Winston-Salem Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event
  • Tickets are non transferable
  • Winners will be notified via email and will pick up their tickets at the event at the Will Call booth (yay, no standing in line!)
  • Neither I nor the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event assume any responsibility for any finger cramping during the contest entry process
And the Winners Are

Don't Forget to Wear Red Shoes! As part of my must to share and help, I have pledged to donate $1 to Red Sneakers For Oakley for each unique photo that an event attendee snaps and shares with me at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. You MUST attend the Winston-Salem event and you MUST tag Red Sneakers For Oakley and me so we can reshare for even more awareness. Do you have to wear red sneakers? Nope. Any red shoe will do- even red socks. Get creative (but keep it family-friendly). 
Stop at my booth, find me, take a photo with me and let's help our food allergy community together.

Tagging Cheat Sheet
Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event   @GFAFWellness         #GFAFEvent
Red Sneakers For Oakley                          @oakley_red               #redsneakersforoakley
Nutrimom (me!)                                         @TracyBNutrimom    #TracyBNutrimom

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event    @gfafwellnessevent
Red Sneakers For Oakley                           @redsneakersforoakley
Nutrimom (me again!)                                @TracyBNutrimom

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event     GFAFWellnessEvent
Red Sneakers For Oakley                            redsneakersforoakley
Nutrimom (yup, I'm still here!)                   NutrimomFAL


Monday, May 14, 2018

Awareness- Not Just a Hashtag

How do you share your thoughts on allergies and asthma?

May is the month to stretch your wings and reach out to those who may not understand that life is so very precious. Some may not understand that one moment can change a life forever. Some may think that waiting to use a medication will not make a difference. Some may not know that everywhere, people are dying because the proper knowledge was not given to them. Each of us is different and each of us finds a way to reach out with our own voice. Making your allergy voice heard can be anything- a tweet, an article, attending an event or even distributing information that will help others understand the importance of being vigilant for safety's sake. There is no such thing as too large or too small- the important thing is to find a way and do it.

This May, I was invited to attend the Asthma Bloggers Summit hosted by the Allergy & Asthma Network. This summit was an amazing day that compiled food allergy and asthma bloggers mixed with representatives from AstraZenecaThe Chest FoundationRegeneronSanofi and Allergy & Asthma Network (of course). With a laid back discussion, the day included the introduction of new resources available through the Allergy & Asthma Network, a Q&A on social media pointers  but more importantly our thoughts, opinions and personal accounts were included in the discussions. I felt that capturing each person's different experiences makes for a well-rounded, upfront discussion and brainstorming session that fuels nothing but the overwhelming need to help even more. Don't get me wrong, it's ok to be told things but when you are asked light bulbs go off, people begin to scribble and you can feel the increased advocacy in the room. Sharing within a no judgment zone is an amazing feeling. The empowerment that was held inside that room is an incredible energy that sent me back home pumped up and full of I can conquer the world ambition.

I Mentioned New Resources I am all about sharing new resources- the more we have at our fingertips, the more all of us can learn from each other and teach others. The Allergy & Asthma Network brought us up to speed about three great places that we can go to for asthma.

  • Asthma: Take Action. Take Control A partnership with The Chest Foundation, this site shares info graphs, patient testimonials, an asthma control quiz, asthma severity assessment tool, downloadable fact sheets and a postcard size info card that you can share with others.
  • Be the Boss of Your Asthma If you ever needed to know or share facts about your asthma, this is another place to get what you need. Downloadable fact sheet, doctor visit checklist, Severe Eosinophilic Asthma (S.E.A.) information and guide to managing symptoms of S.E.A. accompanied by videos with leading asthma doctors helps you get a step up on your life with asthma.
  • E-Asthma Bunches of information on how to check if your asthma could be Eosinophilic asthma (a type of severe asthma) which can increase inflammation in the lungs. The site's "What? Who? How?" approach consists of a short video describing how eosinophils effect the lungs, what and who you should do and see for a diagnosis, a doctor's checklist and lung questionnaire to better the understanding of your diagnosis with your doctor.
With so many difficulties between trying to correctly describe your symptoms to a doctor mixed with the fear that sometimes accompanies a physician visit, all of these can be used alone or together to get you ready and proactive for your health.

Kortney of AllergyGirlEats
Yup, I Admittedly Fangirled I describe food allergy support as "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". Am I the only one who feels this way? I am amazed every single day by the support that our community gives to each other while asking for nothing in return. So when I started to look over the other name tags of who else was going to be at the Summit, I did geek out just a little bit. Summits where you finally get to meet another blogger that you have known virtually for years is like running into a rock star in the food allergy world. These people that you correspond with, that you ask advice from and share your life with are finally there, in front of you and you can have a conversation beyond your computer screen. Call me a geek, I will proudly own it. (I may or may not have silently stalked Kortney, waiting to see her reaction.) To view all of my Summit photos, click here.

Drushane TeeHee
But It Gets Even Better This summit was followed by the yearly Allergy & Asthma Day Capitol Hill. What does this mean? Attendees heard some pretty powerful testimonials before we were offered tips and highlights of what we could discuss with our state's Congressional leaders. We heard from Luca Ingrassia- a 10 year old boy who suffered an anaphylactic reaction on an airplane. This brave boy's most moving statement was "If a 10 year old knows the risks, an airline should." We also heard from Drushane TeeHee, the mother who's spreading awareness on the side effects of Singulair (montelukast sodium) which caused her son to take his own life. Although the side effects may not happen to everyone that take it, I urge you to read this article, be very aware and share with others. Drushane's story left many of us, including myself, teary-eyed but so very grateful that she was brave enough to share her son's story to help others.

Then We Hit the Pavement Yes, we all went to Congress and spoke to our state's representatives. I have never been so excited, afraid, tired, exhilarated and proud all in the same day. The topics that all of us fought to urge Congress to support and pass included access to care, step therapy, disease managementmedication access, telemedicine, affordable medications and treatments, asthma and allergy program funding, health equality, food product labeling, cross-contact and USP797. Amidst the maze of Washington, D.C. were hopeful hearts, voices that were sharing concern and personal stories of themselves and others to let Congress understand how important our causes are to us and everyone else in our community and beyond. I proudly sported my red sneakers in support of the Debbs family which also proves that you can be a voice even without saying a word.

I want to thank the Allergy & Asthma Network for including me at this wonderful experience with so many other amazing people in addition to their sponsors that made this possible. This little blogger girl from North Carolina felt amazed at all of the people who supported each other but also I amazed myself by being a part of all of this when I never would have seen myself doing this. I am filled with even more hope than before, I have gained new food allergy family members and most of all, I find myself asking "What do I do now?" If I had an answer, that would be the end of my story and I refuse to stop where I am.

Allie Bahn, Gary Fitgerald & Marcela Gieminiani

Summit attendees included Allie BahnEmma Amoscato, Kortney Kwong Hing, Henry Ehrlich, Jennifer Roberge, Kerri MacKay, Erin Malawar and Andrea Jensen.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Share Your Foods

Telling people to share their foods is off-limits when it comes to food allergies. 
But there is always an exception to the rule. 

This year, I partnered with Lowes Foods and a bunch of amazing allergy-friendly product brands to take part in the Pay It Forward movement. Although I also did this back in 2015, I was truly excited about the bag of items that local families got from all of us. Not only did Lowes Foods jump at the chance to help out, I had super samples from Banza, Crispy Green, Enjoy Life Foods, free2b Foods, Love Grown, Made Good Foods, OWYN, Simply 7 Snacks and SunButter. These bags were literally filled to the brim with love and goodness!

What is Pay It Forward Day? Simply put, "Pay It Forward Day is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness felt across the world." as seen at With the help of Lisha Vannoy, Guidance Counselor at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, ten anonymous families got these surprise bags with the following items:

Lowes Foods (Robinhood Road location) donated:
  • A large can of tuna
  • A Box of spaghetti
  • A jar of pasta sauce
  • A bag of dry beans
  • Applesauce
  • A box of cereal
  • A box of chocolate chip cookies

That, in itself, is an incredible bag of items that would definitely feed a family well. But the way I see it, if we are going to help, go big or go home! It seems that all of the companies that donated the rest of the food items felt the same way. In addition to the food from Lowes Foods, these families also got each of these in their bag:
Each bag also had a letter attached, describing the Pay It Forward movement and who donated items to each of their families. This may seem like a small drop in the pond for those who need help but just as the Pay It Forward Day site explains, it is a ripple effect. Giving back is never just a small thing, especially to those who got all of these extras when they may have needed it most and not expected to have it. I am hoping to be a part of this movement again - will you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Your Angel Wears Red

Has your life been touched by food allergies? 
Are you entering a new journey that has turned your world upside down because the very thing that is supposed to nourish you can be fatal? 
Have you found out first hand how quickly a spec of food can spiral into a moment that you will never forget? 

Photo courtesy of

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 ) 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 in hopes that anyone reading this will understand that they are not alone.

"I just wanted to let you know of yet another life you and Oakley have saved."

"And because of that we will never forget Oakley..."

Our community needs more support because not all of us are as strong as the Debbs family. Sometimes, we need to laugh, cry, scream, run or just say nothing because it's what we need to do to be able to cope. Regardless of what you need, I wanted to share this resource with all of you so that you can reach out to them if you need them. You know I am always here to help in any way that I can but sometimes, I am not enough for someone and I am ok with that. I don't have all of the answers, most of us don't. The important thing to remember is to ask for help.

You can reach out to Red Sneakers For Oakley on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Not a "social" person? You can also contact them by email, mail and telephone

Want to help spread food allergy education and awareness? Get information on their School Program Initiative or attend an event

Personal Note
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 ~