This weekend was jam packed with two food allergy conferences in the Chicago area. On Saturday I attended the 16th annual FAAN Food Allergy Conference in Rosemont. As usual I came away learning something old and something new. A sampling of the topics included The Ins and Outs of food allergies,an informative guide to nutrition and food allergies, dining out with food allergies and so much more. (For more information on the afternoon session please see my pal The Nut Free Mom’s blog entry today at www.nut-freemom.blogspot.com - I had to leave after lunch).
As in years past my favorite part of the FAAN conference was the networking lunch where I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful parents who live with the same daily fears that I do. We talked mostly about our lives as parents of food allergic children; the first scary diagnosis, the first birthday party, the first cafeteria experience, the first plane trip, the first date, etc. I met some amazing moms and dads, and wish that lunch lasted a little longer. I always come away feeling comforted by the fact there are so many of you out there, living with food allergies, and living well. I can’t wait to see many of those same faces next year.
The first annual THRIVE Allergy Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago was also this weekend. I attended Sunday with my food allergic son John. It was meant to be a special outing for just us, a place where we can learn everything about new allergy aware products and attend some fun cooking demonstrations and informative panel discussions. 10,000 people were registered but I was told by expo organizers a little more than half than that number attended. Whether it was because it was an inaugural event or because of the Saturday conflict with FAAN I hope to see greater numbers next year. The organizers did a fabulous job in a scheduling a diverse number of vendors and speakers. My only complaint was that the food options were very limited. We ended up having lunch outside of the expo - go figure!
I met a lot of fabulous new vendors and topic speakers but two of our favorites were Sweet Alexis dairy, egg and nut free sweets (hmmm…wonder why that would be my favorite!) and the Angel Service Dogs. I met Michelle Fellows and Aimee Lithwin from the allergy concious bakery Sweet Alexis and they were both were sweet, full of enthusiasm and deeply committed to food allergy friendly treats. In fact, their delicious chocolate chip cookies were the only sample John could eat there (again, go figure!). Definitely check out their online bakery for more yummy dairy, egg and nut free treats at www.sweetalexis.com.
We also had the amazing opportunity to meet the adorable Angel Service Dogs. These aren’t your ordinary cute pooches; they are truly your child’s best friend as they are raised and trained as a service dog to your child’s specific allergy. They can sniff out potentially fatal allergens and alert their owner. These dogs can travel with your child to restaurants, birthday parties, and even on plane rides. Visit their website www.angelservicedogs.com for more information. I wish I could have brought home the little black lab puppy; they were so good natured and sweet.
Another guest I enjoyed meeting was singer/songwriter Kyle Dine. Think a slightly younger Ralph Covert of Ralph’s world; hip, young and fun but the beauty is all his songs are about food allergies. Songs like Eip Man and That’s a Peanut are wacky and a load of fun. Check him out at www.kyledine.com.
Finally, one more reminder about the Children’s Memorial Food Allergy Study. We need more families (allergic and non allergic control families) to sign up in order to gain the full benefit of this groundbreaking study. Your participation will directly impact the future of finding new treatments for food allergies. If you or someone you know lives in the Chicago area, please encourage them to call Deanna Caruso, project coordinator at 312-573-7755 to register.
That’s all for now folks. I have to get back to eating my last Sweet Alexis cookie.