I talk about the Teal Pumpkin Project each year around this time, so for those of you who read Chasing Roots regularly, the first part of this post may feel familiar. (The topic is an important one though, so please give the post a quick read and consider either participating yourself - if you plan to welcome trick-or-treaters to your home this year - or sharing the post so others can jump on board the teal pumpkin band wagon!) The second part of this post is new this year, and stems from an experience Hallie and her friends had last year. Here we go!
Four years ago, Will trick-or-treated like a "normal" kid for the first time. He didn't have to gently sift through bowls of candy looking for a piece he could safely eat, or say "no thank you" and walk away with nothing at all if the candy offered contained or might contain peanuts. I didn't have to read the labels on or look up the ingredients in any piece of candy he brought home. He sampled anything and everything without fear.
This wasn't always the case for Will and our family. As my regular readers know, Will has a peanut allergy. Four years ago he completed a months-long peanut desensitization, and he just recently entered his fifth year of maintenance during which he eats 12 peanuts every single day (without issue) to maintain that desensitized state. Sadly, not all kids with peanut allergies are so lucky, which is why, after participating for the first time in 2014 when it officially hit front porches nationwide, we continue to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
For those who haven't yet heard of this Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) project, here's the background information and a quick summary. At least one in 13 children (perhaps as many as one in 11 children) have a food allergy, and many more suffer from Celiac Disease, eat a restricted or special diet, or receive their nutrients via tube feeding. For these children - those who can't consume any of the items received while trick-or-treating or who can't trick-or-treat at all - Halloween doesn't have the same sparkle. The Teal Pumpkin Project began as a local awareness activity in Eastern Tennessee and grew into a nationwide campaign to "raise awareness about food allergies and promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters" and aims to ensure every child can experience a safe, happy holiday.
Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is easy.
- Pick out a pumpkin, paint it teal, and place it on your front porch on Halloween.
- Provide non-food treats - pencils, erasers, stickers, bubbles, and plastic vampire teeth have been popular at our house - for trick-or-treaters.
The goal here is not to exclude candy; FARE suggests simply putting candy in one bowl, and non-food treats in a separate bowl. And if you don't have time to buy and/or paint a teal pumpkin, you can buy one online, order a fun sign for your front yard, or print out and hang up one of FARE's signs!
Painting a pumpkin teal or putting out a teal pumpkin on Halloween won't cure Will or anyone else of their allergies. But doing so is a step toward increasing awareness and making the world a safer place for people with life-threatening food allergies.
Let's paint the town teal!