You can tell Halloween is coming. CVS, Walgreens, Party Harty and pop-ups are chock full of ghosts and skeletons — plus Kit Kats, Hershey bars and other fine foods, most of them the size of small planets.
It’s a great time to be a kid.
Unless you’re allergic.
When Blake Hofmeister was 3 1/2, he ate an M&M. In a delayed reaction he broke out in hives, and could barely breathe. Tests showed he was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.
His mom, Lisa, learned to scrutinize food labels. Now a 1st grader at Kings Highway Elementary School, his life — and his family’s — has never been the same.
A year ago Lisa heard about FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). The non-profit works to improve the quality of life of people with food allergies.
Last month, she helped organize a charity walk/fun day at Sherwood Island. The event drew hundreds, and raised over $150,000.
Now — as Halloween nears — Lisa is focused on her next effort: the Teal Pumpkin Project.
The national initiative promotes the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters in a holiday that excludes some.
Participation is simple. Parents are encouraged to buy inexpensive toys, rather than candy. They place a teal pumpkin or sign from FARE outside the home, indicating there are non-food treats inside.
“Parents are surprised how easy this is,” Lisa says.
Kings Highway has gotten on board. A “Pumpkin Palooza” fundraiser the Friday before Halloween includes magicians, music and other non-candy fun.
“Halloween used to be my favorite holiday,” says Lisa. “I loved the costumes, the candy, everything about it. Now I’m so nervous.”
She loves welcoming trick-or-treaters to her Old Hill neighborhood home. Last year, participating for the first time in the Teal Pumpkin Project, she was excited that many children — even those without food allergies — chose toys over candy.
“I want Blake to enjoy Halloween, like other kids,” she says. “I don’t want him to feel like an outsider.”
FARE makes it easy to take part. The website provides links to resources, including flyers, yard signs, ideas for non-food treats, and a trick-or-treat bag.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is not the food police. Giving candy is still okay.
But for kids with food allergies — as well as celiac disease and other issues — it can be a life-saver.