With serious food-borne allergies striking a near all-time high in the U.S., the frightening issue has been generating a great deal of support in recent years. Nowhere could you find more support for this malady than at Eisenhower Park for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy held on Oct. 25.
Diane Amandola of East Northport is a member of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), which is a national organization that raises funds and awareness for those with food allergies. She is also the chairperson and co-founder of the Long Island FARE Walk, an annual two-mile jaunt through Eisenhower Park which is currently celebrating its 10 year anniversary; the money raised is used for education and food allergy research.
“Food allergies are a growing health concern and an estimated 15 million Americans have them, which amounts to one in 13 kids, and two in every school class,” she said. “My son Nicholas is 11, and he is allergic to dairy, eggs, beets, peanuts and tree nuts.”
For Nicholas, life has become far more complicated than a child of his age should have to deal with.
“You have to watch out for every food; you have to read all the ingredients, all the time,” he said. “It’s pretty hard having food allergies, because and any food could cause a reaction. You never know.”
FARE does many fundraising efforts throughout the year, but the annual walk is by far their biggest event. In fact, the Long Island walk brings in the most funds and participants out of all other FARE chapters across the United States, raising $192,000 last year alone.
Christine Restaino of Massapequa Park showed her support. She has been a member of the FARE Walk’s committee for the past two years. She also has a daughter, Kylie Rose, who has suffered under the yolk of dangerous food allergies her entire young life.
“Kylie was diagnosed in January of 2013 when she was two years old with tree nut allergies,” said Restaino. “Before we knew she was allergic, we gave her a tiny piece of a walnut and she spit it out; an hour later, she was coughing, disoriented, and her eyes and nose were running. We rushed her to the hospital where they confirmed she was having an allergic reaction. Luckily she recovered on her own without needing a shot, but it was so frightening.”
Right away, Restaino carried out an exhaustive search on the Internet, looking for support groups; that’s when she discovered FARE and became a staunch participant of the organization. The support she receives from people in the same situation, she said, helps with the day-to-day issues that Kylie will likely have to deal with until a cure is finally found.
“I’ve been calling companies for two years now to learn which ones use nut-free equipment or run nut-free facilities,” said Restaino. “We have trusted brands of food that we stick to, but we always read the label because manufacturing procedures can change, but Kylie is doing well, and she’s learning that she’s not alone in this.”
While the trials of dealing with the spectre of food allergies often casts a shadow over each day, Amandola said that all the effort is worth it for every day she gets to spend with her son; the fact that the Long Island FARE Walk grows each year reminds her that there are others out there fighting -– and winning -– the same battle as well.
“It’s a tremendous feeling,” she said. “Coming here and seeing the smiles on children’s faces, knowing that we are providing a day for them that is safe and fun. It doesn’t get better than that.”
To find out more about FARE and food allergies, visit www.foodallergy.org.