With Halloween a mere three days away, it is time for me to explain why The Teal Pumpkin Project is so important to our family.
Anyone who has been reading this blog or knows our family, understands that Brian suffers from multiple food allergies. One of his worst, requiring us to carry an epi pen and steroids wherever we go, is dairy, but soy is not far behind.
Although Brian has been diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), food allergies, and potentially Chronic FPIES, these are only a few bricks in the massive institution that makes up food allergies.
In fact, my niece suffered from FPIES the first couple years of her life. Potentially life-threatening reactions occurred whenever she had anything with rice or oats in it. Thankfully, she has outgrown the condition, but that cannot be said for millions of children around the world.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was launched just last year. Being new to the world of food allergies, I jumped on the chance to provide a safe alternative for children like Brian. While my intentions were good, the execution was the not the greatest.
I had no idea how hard it would be to find a teal pumpkin (I thought for sure a plastic one would be found at Target or Walmart). With Halloween drawing near, and feeling defeated, I purchased a fake pumpkin and some teal spray paint. It may not have looked great, but it served its purpose. I also bought a special container and filled it with “non-food” treats like vampire teeth, spider rings and miniature tubs of Play-Doh.
Essentially, that is what this program is about in the simplest terms.
Not all children can enjoy candy for any number of reasons. Anyone who has a child in school knows that most schools have put a kibosh on ANYTHING containing nuts. The same caution has to be used when selecting Halloween candy. Otherwise, millions of children end up disappointed at the end of the night, skip Halloween altogether, or worse yet, suffer sever allergic reactions. The Teal Pumpkin Project offers alternative “non-food” options for children so that they can have a Happy Halloween with the rest of the trick-or-treaters.
Last year Brian missed out on Halloween because he had his first endoscopy and colonoscopy earlier in the day. The year before that he was too young to have any idea what was happening, and I gladly took the few pieces of candy he received.
I want this year to be different. I want Brian to enjoy trick-or-treating as much as his sister. I want him to be able to take pleasure in the “treats” he receives, just like any other kid.
Although it was new last year, (pretty sure we had the only Teal Pumpkin in my friend’s neighborhood) the movement has taken the world by storm. FARE’s website (Food Allergy Research and Education) encourages households to “Take the Pledge” and even has a map showing areas across the US who are participating, with almost six thousand signed up so far.
Of course, there are thousands more who have not signed up on the site, but have done their part to spread the word.
Stores across the US are selling Teal Pumpkins (by the way, a Teal Pumpkin is the universal symbol now that you are offering a non-food alternative) and various organizations, like Trunk or Treat groups, are encouraging participants to include a Teal Pumpkin and alternative options. The media has caught on to the growing support and featured the story on news stations in multiple states.
Although Brian and I will not be participating in our Annual Halloween Traditions, I know that our friends and family are leading the charge for us at home. My “second mom” has assured me that a Teal Pumpkin is ready to go and Matt has an array of items to pass out to trick-or-treaters.
All this being said, I am not against passing out candy. In fact, a bowl of candy will sit right next to the non-food bowl. I humbly am asking for you just to remember children like Brian when you purchase your candy this year, and maybe pick up a few fun items to hand out also. Party City, Dollar Tree, 99 Cent Store and Oriental Trading, among many others, offer great prizes for minimal cost.
It may be an extra $20 out of your pocket, but the rewards are priceless if you can help keep Halloween fun for all kids.
Even though Halloween is approaching quickly, if you can find the time to paint a pumpkin teal and pick up some non-food items, you will have my eternal thanks. In fact, I encourage you to share pictures of your Teal Pumpkin if you do participate. I know I will make sure to take a picture of every Teal Pumpkin I see while out with Brian. Hopefully, we will not be disappointed.
Also, as a side note, if you find yourself searching for a last-minute costume, I encourage you to shop at Spirit Halloween. At Children’s Hospitals across the country, Spirit sets up a “fun area” where inpatient children can pick out a costume, goody bag, toys and do crafts. Although Brian was not able to leave his hospital room when they were at CHOP, I was able to pick him up a police officer’s costume. It is an amazing program, and brightens the faces of the patients.
Brian and I continue to prepare for Halloween’s arrival. Our hotel room has tiny pumpkins in it (safe as long as he doesn’t touch the insides of the pumpkin), and I have a few costume options available for him to choose on Saturday.
I always have enjoyed Halloween, and with The Teal Pumpkin Project’s growing awareness, I am optimistic that Brian will too.